Dumplin’ (2018)


We’ve all got a little Dolly in us.

Willowdean Dickson (Danielle Macdonald) is always living in the shadow of her mother, former beauty-pageant queen Rosie (Jennifer Aniston). It’s why she’s always had low self-esteem and it’s what’s always led her to not wanting to be apart of the local pageant – the same one that her mother judges and holds enough power over. But Willowdean doesn’t care whether or not her mom approves, or anyone else for that matter, because she’s going to participate in the pageant no matter what and prove that big girls do rule the world and all it takes is a little love and soul from Dolly Parton to save the day.

Or at least that’s what I think is going on here?

Shine bright, shine far, be a star! Oh wait, wrong movie about a beauty-pageant.

There’s no denying that Dumplin’ is a sweet movie that means well. It has a heartfelt message about always being true to one’s-self; about how it doesn’t matter what’s on the outside, because it’s the inside that counts; about how mothers and daughters can come together over their love for looking their very best; and lastly, about being yourself, presenting the best you, no matter what. These sound cheesy and that’s because, they are; Dumplin’ isn’t the kind of movie that, despite early-promise, is going to break down barriers and change the world.

If anything, it’s going to make you smile a little bit and charm you, but once again, that’s about it. Which is, yes, fine, but also a little disappointing considering that Dumplin’ is also the movie that, early on, flirts with the idea of being revolutionary and speaking out against the beauty-pageants that pit women against one another, in hopes that one will come out on top and be considered “the best-looking and most overall perfect individual”. It’s a soulless competition no doubt, but Dumplin’ seems to take the stance that, well, it’s okay, as long as you have the stomach for it?

I didn’t mean that literally, by the way.

Momma said knock you out.

Director Anne Fletcher seems to be dealing with some light material anyway, so it’s very hard to fault her for just following the motions and giving us a very cookie-cutter, formulaic film that’s a lot like every other coming-of-ager Netflix has produced this year. The only small differences is that it benefits from two very solid performances from Danielle Macdonald and Jennifer Aniston, both of whom look absolutely nothing like daughter and mother, which is kind of the point. Macdonald has slowly been getting more and more impressive with each and every “rebellious, bad-ass teen” role that she takes, whereas Aniston, in a much smaller role, is a perfect fit as an older-woman trying to hold onto her former glory and pride, in any way that she can.

Together, the two have a sweet relationship that’s the heart and backbone of this sometimes weak movie. They remind you that no matter how different you may be, you can always come together by realizing that we’re all beautiful on the inside, no matter what a competition may or may not tell you. Once again, very cheesy, sappy, corny, and bordering on Hallmark-level material, but hey, it’s got some charm, so shut up and enjoy, dammit!

Consensus: For a movie all about knocking down walls, challenging the system, and taking on the hierarchy, Dumplin’ sure is conventional and run-of-the-mill, even despite the small charms of its cast and crew.

5.5 / 10

Literally look nothing alike. But maybe that’s the point?

Photos Courtesy of: Netflix

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4 comments

  1. Good review, Dan. I gave it a more favourable review, but I agree, it really didn’t do anything on a plot level (contrast to Little Miss Sunshine’s badass pageant protest, for example). I guess I just took it as more of a character study of Willowdean than anything else- dealing with grief and learning how to love herself. And it had some really touching scenes that just stuck with me more than any failings in the story. But I’m a sucker for these types of movies 🙂

  2. I was going to check this out because everyone I know liked it. The only problem is the plot looked ridiculous and I cannot stand Aniston. I will never see what Ross saw in her.

  3. As someone who will ride or die for Jennifer Aniston, I was stoked when this movie came out. I actually started watching it but stopped somewhere in the beginning because it didn’t hook me from the start. Your review however accurately expresses my first impression. Definitely like where the film seems to be going but it’s not heavy enough to break barriers for sure. Nice read! I think I’ll finish it..

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