Dumplin' - #52FilmsByWomen

It's officially a new year, and with that comes new ventures. One thing I had on my 2019 to-do list was to spend time adding additional content on here to give readers more to explore. So welcome to a brand new year, dear reader, there’s plenty of great projects coming your way! Some of which now include a little something that I’ve always wanted to do – participate in Women in Film’s #52FilmsByWomen campaign. The pledge, which you can access here, encourages people to watch a film a week made by a woman for one year. I’ve signed it, and I’m more than ready to tackle it. Supporting women in film is very close to my heart, and I can’t wait to embark on this exciting journey through the female gaze. 

Let’s kick things off with a movie I saw in December that, conveniently, you can watch from the comfort of your couch on Netflix; Dumplin’! 

Dumplin’, based on the young adult novel by Julie Murphy, is directed by Anne Fletcher who has helmed many films prior to this including The Proposal, 27 Dresses, and Step Up. It stars Danielle Macdonald, who starred in the criminally underrated Sundance hit Patti Cake$ in 2017, as a plus-size teenager named Willowdean Dickson who lives in a small Texas town called Clover City with her ex-pageant winning mother, Rosie, played exquisitely by Jennifer Aniston. The two have a very distant relationship, as Willowdean has a difficult time relating to her mother’s love, and might I even say obsession, with upholding her status as the former Miss Teen Bluebonnet. As a child, Willowdean found comfort in her aunt Lucy, a woman who embraced her weight and encouraged Willowdean to do the same and love herself for who she is – all to the sweet and smooth-as-honey sounds of Dolly Parton’s music that's blared joyously through their speakers.   

After Lucy passes away and her belongings are packed away into boxes, Willowdean finds an entry form from Lucy's younger years for the local beauty pageant that’s only half filled out. She realizes the insecurity that was buried underneath Lucy’s cheery, self-assured façade. In an act of rebellion, she enters into the local beauty pageant with her loving best friend, Ellen (Odeya Rush), by her side. Eventually, her bold revolution gains a couple more followers in another heavier girl with a love for the Lord and a heart of gold named Millie (Maddie Baillio), and a tough-as-nails punk rocker named Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus).  The four girls start their journey ready to dismantle the pageant from the inside out, but once they begin to actually enjoy the various events they’re participating in, the plan falls through. Though Willowdean feels defeated, she soon learns that the true revolution wasn’t about destroying someone else’s body type to make a point. Instead, it was all about acknowledging the beauty in every body type and realizing the power of individuality – and this film carries that notion proudly like a crown atop its head. As Willowdean says in the beginning, “every body is a swimsuit body,” which is one of the many important messages to be taken away from this picture. 

This film is a delightful coming-of-age story that’s as sassy and willful as the Dolly Parton tunes imbued within it. The characters are lovable right from the get-go and maintain a likeability through the entirety of the film's runtime. Like many young adult book adaptations, this one is simple but sweet. It radiates a charming and positive energy that leaves its viewer with a warm and comforting sense of joy. In a world laden with negativity, Dumplin' is a much-needed light in the dark.