With industries such as beauty and women’s fashion that have swept across our social media platforms, content sharing and networking have gone publicized to a whole new level that previous generations would not have ever imagined. Physical comparisons and competition, though not unprecedented on its own, are now viewed around the world, thanks to new technologies the Western world is inundated with. Against this sociocultural backdrop, Netflix has released an endearing coming-of-age film called Dumplin’, starring Jennifer Aniston and young Danielle McDonald. Enjoyed by many since its release two weeks ago, let us review the strengths and takeaways that the movie has to offer, shall we?
After attending another seemingly pointless teen beauty pageant with her mother and best friend, an insecure but charming young girl soon decides to apply to next year’s pageant. As events begin to unfold, however, high school senior Willowdean (nicknamed “Dumplin,” symbolizing her heavyset figure, played by Danielle McDonald) is in need of learning the importance to decide for herself who she is going to be, and not anyone else.
After viewing Dumplin’, I thought it was a film that, structurally speaking, made sure to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. It’s a simple and charming story I was able to easily follow, without any sequences that I felt dragged on for too long, or with too many moving parts that just made a muddled mess. No, the writers had a simple but touching message to tell, and they did it well so that we can understand.
In the film, Jennifer Aniston plays Willowdean’s mother, Rosie Dickson. She’s a past beauty queen in the small Texas town they live in, as well as a panel judge and essentially, the director of the pageant. One of the strong points of the film I thought was the experience and humor that Aniston brings to the story. Her small quirks and mannerisms I thought added life and humor to the ups and downs that the main character journeys through. Another strong and comical, but perhaps understated performance I thought was by Bex Taylor-Klaus, who plays as Hannah Perez, one of the “weirdos” who has entered the pageant competition to revolt against the institution.
Perhaps the strongest point of the film, however, is its message and theme. Though obviously it is a mother-daughter film, it’s also a film for humanity. We all struggle to be confident in who we truly are, because of our weight, because of our gender and identity, because of our skin color, because of our religion or the lack thereof, and/or because of many other countless realities. Dumplin’s message is here to tell us, in the words of Willowdean’s aunt Lucy at the beginning of the film, “The world is filled with people that are gonna try to tell you who you are, but that’s for you to decide.”
Critically speaking, yes, there are some elements that deter the movie from being, what I thought in the great or excellent range. Some of the dialogue is tacky, and being a sweet and charming coming of age story, there is nothing noteworthy about the cinematography. Additionally, with many of the young actors and actresses just beginning their careers, performances were respectable, but nothing outstanding.
Yet Dumplin’ is a film I would still recommend. It is a good, heartwarming story for anyone in need of some encouragement to be the person they truly are. Hey, and with a Dolly Parton-centered soundtrack, country music lovers will potentially find only another element of the film to fall in love with! Cheers.
Zimm Score (scored prior to viewing online scores for my amusement!): 6.2/10
Aggregate Critics’ Score on Rotten Tomatoes: 6.5/10 (not using percentage score)
Metacritic Score: 53/100