I would say that it has been a while since a film has touched me in a way that both made me smile and tear up all at the same time. But yesterday I experienced the film Dumplin’ on Netflix and I think it’s my new feel-good film that is so much more than just a coming-of-age movie – it’s a film about self-acceptance and love.
The story follows a teenager called Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), a plus-sized teenage daughter growing up in a small town in Texas with her former beauty queen mom (Jennifer Aniston). When Willowdean – who her mum ‘lovingly’ refers to as Dumplin’ – decides to boycott her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest. But things don’t always go to plan, in fact, she ends up starting a revolution on conventional beauty when a team of misfits decide to join her cause and follow in her footsteps.
This beautiful film focusses on the struggles of growing up looking a little different, especially when your mother was once seen as the epitome of ‘beauty’ in her hometown. However, through her journey, her rebellion ends up reminding her mother of the bond the two once had as she tries to enter her world to win back her heart.
Early into the film, we hear that Willowdean’s Aunt Lucy passed away. Willowdean and Lucy had a very special bond that happened thanks to Dolly Parton’s music. Lucy was a larger-than-life influence on Dumplin’. Lucy was a big lady and she made Willowdean feel comfortable in her skin but after her passing, Willowdean has felt outcasted by her mother who wants to keep the pageant spirit alive.
But what was it about Dumplin’ that truly gripped me? It was 3 things really, Jennifer Aniston, Drag Queens and Dolly Parton!
First of all, Jennifer Aniston played Dumplin’s mother superbly. She was a mixture of cold, distant and demanding and I couldn’t love her character any more. There was one scene in the movie where old Rachel-from-Friends brought some genuine tears to my eyes with her touching revelations.
Secondly, we get a healthy dose of drag queens in the show. I first heard about Dumplin’ because I heard that Ginger Minj was going to be in it. The drag element of the movie really made me smile, it was a way of showing everybody that we can all be a bit more fierce and self-loving.
Thirdly, Dolly fucking Parton! Who doesn’t love Dolly?! The whole film pays fan-service to the country legend, gay icon and humanitarian that is Dolly Parton. Dolly’s music carries Dumplin’ through the tough times, especially through the times her Aunt Lucy died. Dolly helped carry her spirit and she decided to enter the pageant for Lucy.
Throughout the whole film, we hear some beautiful songs from Dolly’s vast archive of music. As well as a beautiful original song made for the movie which she wrote and sang with Sia. We also hear one song in the film that both Dolly and Jennifer sang together.
I don’t want to spoil the film, but put it this way, Dumplin’ learns to channel her inner-Dolly with help from the drag queens. Overall, I thought it was a beautiful story and it had some pretty tender moments.
I think it hit me quite hard as Aunt Lucy really reminded me of my good friend Lesley who passed away this year. Hearing people in the film speak positively about Lucy reminded me so much of how people spoke about Lesley and seeing Dumplin’ get inspired by Lucy’s personality and attitude of life made me think of how I related to my friend. So yeah, that brought a good few tears to my eyes – but in a good way.
I would honestly recommend you all watch the film. And even if you’re not a huge fan of it, do it for the Dolly Parton music, you hear a whole lot of classics and some original music for the movie which is well worth hearing. If you’re in the mood for a film to cheer you up or put you in high spirits, I thoroughly recommend watching Dumplin’ – it’ll make you remember that you are your own sassy individual.