Review: Dumplin’

Danielle Macdonald and Jennifer Aniston in Dumplin'

Female powered Dumplin’ is about body image and loving who you are. Produced by and starring Jennifer Aniston as a woman who lives for beauty pageants. She has a plus size daughter Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald) who shakes up her world.

When we first meet Willowdean, she’s singing along to Dolly Parton as she drives. She’s been singing Dolly Parton since she was old enough to talk, thanks to her Aunt Lucy (Hilliary Begley). Lucy was a plus size gal herself, and loved to have a good time as much as she loved Dolly Parton.

Lucy had lived with Willowdean, or Dumplin’ as her mother called her. It was Will, Lucy and Will’s mom Rosie. No mention of a man. Lucy died several months ago.

Lucy basically raised Will, because Rosie was occupied with beauty pageant business all year round. Rosie ran the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant in their small Texas town.

Will’s best friend was Ellen (Odeya Rush).  Ellen was the definition of loyal. A cute guy at the burger joint where Will worked, Bo (Luke Benward), showed an interest in Will. Will found it hard to believe that a boy would be interested in her, but it was honest on his part.

When Rosie finally got around to clearing out Lucy’s bedroom, several life-changing things happened. Will found a paper showing that Lucy had wanted to enter the beauty pageant years ago. Will decided to enter in her honor. And then destroy it from within.

When Will entered the pageant, another plus size girl named Millie (Maddie Baillio) did, too. Following right behind Millie was the high school lesbian Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus). With three such misfits in the pageant, they naturally teamed up.

Another thing Will found in Lucy’s bedroom was an announcement about Dolly Parton night at a local bar. The three misfits decided to go. On Dolly Parton night, the place filled with drag queens who performed while lip-syncing to Dolly Parton songs. Will, Millie, and Hannah loved it.

The drag queens, most importantly Lee (Harold Perrineau), had loved Lucy and took to Will and her friends immediately. And, believe me, honey, when you’re a misfit in a beauty pageant, having a few drag queens in your corner is nothing short of a miracle. A drag queen befriended Millie’s Mom (Kathy Najimy), too. Another miracle.

With that setup, the pageant was on. The results were unexpected, heartwarming, and ultimately positive for everyone involved. With Anne Fletcher directing, and a screenplay by Kristin Hahn from the novel by Julie Murphy, everything about Dumplin’ was positive and affirming.

There can’t be enough films like this. About women. By women. Films that carry the message that women deserve to be loved and accepted for who they are, as they are. If only we all had an Aunt Lucy and a few drag queens to back us up in life. Or a former beauty queen of a mother who was willing to learn. Failing that, this movie is a good place to start.

Watch it on Netflix.

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