Because it’s never easy to trash on something so pure…
Synopsis: Dumplin’ is the plus-size, teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, who signs up for her mom’s pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town. (Netflix)
Starring: Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston, and Odeya Rush
Writer: Kristin Hahn
Director: Anne Fletcher
Rating: PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 110mins
In essence, Dumplin’ was a movie that is more about the message than a compelling story or a good laugh. This can often go the wrong way. In that regard, multiple films that are all about shoving the overt morals of the screenwriter down your throat come to mind, but thankfully, this film doesn’t take that route. This is definitely going to be a film to watch for those looking to feel empowered, however, those looking for a truly emotional story will need to look elsewhere. Though that’s not to say that it isn’t a compelling story, or doesn’t give you a good laugh.
Aside from the moral of the story, there’s plenty of good going on here. The ensemble does a good job here, and the characters are layered enough to get behind them and their motives. In fact, this is a film was a showcase the acting, as the script allowed the actors to show their range. Fresh off of Patti Cake$, one of 2017’s hidden gems, Danielle Macdonald is charming as could be as a teen named Willowdean. Willowdean was the driving force of the story, not out of guilt or feeling like she deserves better but rather because she’s just a fantastically authentic character that is easy to cheer for. Jennifer Aniston isn’t one to traditionally play the self centered, dismissive one, but she does a pretty solid job here as Willowdean’s mother Rosie. Her character feels the least realistic, but that southern accent alone deserves ALL of the attention. Odeya Rush is pretty good as Ellen, and continues to be choosing great projects, although she isn’t really the focus here.
In addition, it’s all the small details that surround the main story and actors that make this more enjoyable than it could have been. Having the self awareness factor of Willowdean being annoyed by those who follow in her footsteps is pretty clever. In addition, the sets, production design, costume design and all make this story feel like it takes place in a world of it’s own, and allow for you to be truly immersed into the Texas setting.
The focus is primarily put on these two categories, which unfortunately allows the story to fault quite a bit. The dialog feels kind of unrealistic in its depiction of how these characters would talk, which only detracts from it being as emotionally intriguing as it could have been. The film also falls under every dang trope in the book, almost like a mad-libs movie in the way that it just follows a story structure it found from a 10th grade English class that is just mildly adjusted to fit the themes.
Dumplin’ is far from perfect, but it doesn’t exactly need to be. While the filmmakers had good and worthy intentions, if the film’s goal was to empower people and get them motivated, it’s just difficult to put aside some of the blatantly obvious tropes and cheesy dialogue.