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Dumplin’ (2018) Review: Shaking Up The Pageant World

By: Ashley Velez

Run time: 110 minutes   

Dumplin', the newest Netflix movie to make its debut this week comes with a fun loving cast and positive message. The movie starts with Willowdean Dickson (Danielle MacDonald), an overweight teenager, describing her childhood memories with her Aunt Lucy (Hilliary Begley), the audience is shown quick scenes with Aunt Lucy singing Dolly Parton in the car and Willowdean being introduced to her childhood best friend. In present day, we learn Aunt Lucy has passed away not long ago and Willowdean is about to start her senior year with her best friend, Ellen (Odeya Rush). Willowdean’s acquired love for Dolly Parton is quickly shown as she sings ‘9-5’ on her drive over to her local diner where she waitresses. At the diner we meet Bo (Luke Bewared), the local teen heartthrob. The movie appears to be a typical teen movie until you further understand Willowdean’s backstory.

We meet Willowdean’s pageant obsessed, mother Rosie Dickson (Jennifer Aniston). Rosie, a past pageant winner and current pageant organizer for the local town, is a current celebrity for her pageant work and is constantly obsessed with her looks. Quickly you find yourself disliking Rosie. She is nothing like her sister Aunt Lucy who provides encouraging words and fun memories. Rosie refers to Willowdean as ‘Dumplin,’ which just adds more reason to find her irritating. You can’t help wondering if Rosie loves the pageant more than her actual daughter. When Willowdean decides to join the pageant her mother is horrified seeming to feel that pageant life is not for her daughter.

Dumplin' improves upon the typical teen comedy. It shows a teen girl who struggles with herself but also recognizes her worth and the importance of female empowerment. It brings a strong message of friendship and body positivity that we do not normally see. As Willowdean states, “a swimsuit body is a body with a swimsuit on it.” We watch Willowdean navigate the pageant world while also dealing with her own self doubts and critics along the way. Through the journey Willowdean finds solace in Dolly Parton’s music, becoming its own character in the film. Dolly Parton sings all the songs on the movie’s soundtrack. It’s hard not to tap your foot as Willowdean’s performs a rendition of ‘Here You Come Again.’  With catchy tunes and an entertaining cast its easy to get sucked into Willowdean’s story and find yourself rooting for her.

Grade: A-

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