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Movie Review: “Dumplin’”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Netflix Release: 12/7/2018

Netflix Release: 12/7/2018

Synopsis

Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald) is a troubled teen trying to find her place in the world, after the passing of her beloved Aunt Lucy (Hilliary Begly). Lucy pretty much raised Willowdean, because Willowdean’s mother was never around. Her mother (Jennifer Aniston) has been a sort of a local celebrity, ever since winning the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant—a popular pageant in the small Texas town. Willowdean has never been considered a “pageant girl” due to her weight, but that will change this year.

Lucy died, but Willowdean is now old enough to enter the pageant for herself. Willowdean wanted to enter the pageant for a few reasons. First, she did it to make a statement against everyone who has ever made fun of her for her size. Second, she did it to make a statement against her mother for never being around. However, most importantly, she did it to honor her late Aunt Lucy, a woman who always exuded confidence in spite of her appearance, which is something that Willowdean always admired.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Dumplin’ (+6pts)

Body Image (-4pts)

Jennifer Aniston (+4pts)

The Plan (-5pts)

The Revolution (+4pts)

The Winner (-3pts)

movie-review-dumplin

Pro: Dumplin’ (+6pts)

I liked this character. Her story was one that was easy to get invested in. A beloved family member passed away, and that fueled her mission. She also always felt like an outcast due to her weight, but she was raised to be confident and to be strong. She was an easy character to root for, and the story was made more interesting by the fact that Willowdean was overweight most of her life, while having a mother who was a former beauty pageant winner, and current a beauty pageant enthusiast.

The story was not the only reason why I liked this character. Danielle Macdonald also did a really good job in the role. I had just seen the actress for the first time in Bird Box, and I thought she did fine in that movie, but she definitely carried the heart and the drama of this one. Danielle Macdonald did a great job of playing her character’s growth, and she did so while playing the character’s complexity in a really relatable way that got me hooked into her story. I will not go as far as to say that no one else could have played the character, but Danielle Macdonald did a great job with it, and she made it easy to connect with the character.

movie-review-dumplin

Con: Body Image (-4pts)

One part of the movie that I did not think was handled correctly was Willowdean’s weight. The character was overweight, and I hoped the movie would address this in an inspirational way, but the filmmakers spent the whole movie showing Willowdean being upset with her appearance. If someone is overweight, it is not exactly healthy, but they should not let anyone else dictate their lives. Whether they want to lose weight, or are happy with the way they look, it should be entirely up to them. That is the statement that this movie so easily could have made, and I feel like it was a missed opportunity not to do so.

Willowdean did not think she deserved good looking guys, and she spent most of the movie being insecure about her appearance. With that in mind, it would not make sense for the character to not want to lose weight. This left me having to pretend that losing weight was not an option for her, even though we were given no reason to believe that she was unable to do this. I understand that losing weight is not easy, but the filmmakers showed this character being miserable for two hours, and never really trying to do anything about it. I just did not think this was the right approach to the issue of body image for this movie to take.

movie-review-dumplin

Pro: Jennifer Aniston (+4pts)

Jennifer Aniston’s character was far from the focus of the story, but she left a pretty decent impression on it. She played Willowdean’s mother, and while the movie was focused on Willowdean, her mother was the looming presence that Willowdean associated with all her problems. The movie was about Willowdean trying to overcome her insecurities and the loss of her Aunt Lucy, and her mother was the embodiment of all of that. Willowdean felt like her aunt was a better parent than her mother was, and her mother was a constant reminder of Willowdean’s weight issues. The character could very easily have been a one-dimensional, antagonistic character, but Jennifer Aniston’s portrayal gave layers to the character that made me understand and sympathize with her. The writers did a good job of making the character more complex than she easily could have been, and Jennifer Aniston did a good job of bringing that to the screen effectively.

movie-review-dumplin

Con: The Plan (-5pts)

Willowdean did not have much of a plan. She knew she wanted to join the pageant, but she did not seem to have any idea what she wanted to do once she joined. Did she want to sabotage the whole thing to really stick it to her mother? Did she want to win the whole thing to honor her aunt? Either of these would have been viable options, but the filmmakers never made Willowdean's intentions clear, and it made the story feel like was missing a clear direction.

To clarify, the movie said that Willowdean wanted to sabotage the thing to embarrass her mother, but she did not really have any real plan to do so. She just kind of went through the pageant with a chip on her shoulder. This made me think that she maybe did not really want to sabotage the whole thing. The character was easy to sympathize with, but her lack of a plan made it hard to get behind her mission. She had countless opportunities to do what she said she wanted to do, but she kept not doing anything to further her mission, and there did not seem to be any reason for it.

movie-review-dumplin

Pro: The Revolution (+4pts)

The revolution was a small group of friends that joined Willowdean on her mission—although I still do not know what that mission was—in the pageant. Basically, they were just other girls who also joined the pageant despite their appearances or their attitudes toward the pageant. Ellen (Odeya Rush) was Willowdean’s best friend, so she was naturally an important character in Willowdean’s story. Millie (Maddie Baillio) was overweight, but she was easily the happiest person in the pageant. Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus) joined the pageant ironically despite hating everything it stood for. Of the group, Hannah was my favorite because of the humor she brought to the movie. The group of characters were a group revolutionaries without any sort of plan, but each of these characters played an important part in the movie. A couple were dramatic, plot focused characters, a couple others were comedic characters, and I enjoyed the group as a whole.

movie-review-dumplin

Con: The Winner (-3pts)

I thought the filmmakers made an interesting choice with the winner of the pageant. Part of me liked the decision because it was definitely not a typical one, but it unfortunately also felt anti-climactic. We followed a lot of characters throughout the story—between Willowdean and her friends—but the chosen winner did not deliver any real payoff. So while the winner was unexpected, it was only unexpected because thing that came earlier built toward it, so it was not very satisfying.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Watchable

45-59

movie-review-dumplin

Grade: C+ (77pts)

Dumplin’ had the potential to make an impactful statement about body image, but I got the impression that the filmmakers just wanted to play it safe, and not really make any statement about it whatsoever. Willowdean was an interesting character that the filmmakers developed poorly, but I thought Danielle Macdonald did a great job in the role. Jennifer Aniston’s role was far from the main focus, but she made the character relatable when she could have very easily been one-dimensional. There were things about the movie that I liked a lot, and there were things that I thought the filmmakers dropped the ball with. I did not think it was not a bad movie, but it was not exactly good either.

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