Dumplin’, a movie based on the Young Adult novel by Texas-based author Julie Murphy, was released on Netflix yesterday, and to summarise it in one word, it’s wonderful.
The movie follows a teenage girl in Texas, Willowdean, played by Australian Danielle Macdonald, whose mum, played by Jennifer Aniston, is obsessed with pageants, having won one in 1991 and evidently never getting over it.
Willowdean was taught to love Dolly Parton by her aunt Lucy, whose death precedes the events in the movie. Dolly’s music is a key part of the movie, and Parton recorded six new songs exclusively for the movie; there are also two amazing remixes of ‘Jolene’ and ‘Here You Come Again’.
Willowdean and her best friend El decide to enter the pageant, initially as a protest, but they eventually come to enjoy themselves, largely thanks to the power of drag queens.
Harold Perrineau stars as Rhea Ranged, the star of a local bar’s Dolly Parton night, and Ginger Minj, real-life drag queen and actual angel, also plays a part in getting Willowdean and her friends ready for the pageant.
As someone who read and loved the book, I’m in love with this adaptation. It’s faithful to the content and spirit of the book, and brings it to life in a delightful and enjoyable way.
It’s the movie I wish had existed when I was a fat teenager struggling with my body image. It shows fat girls triumphing, being unapologetic about their bodies (in the swimsuit contest, Willowdean and El walk out in swimsuits that say “Every Body Is A Swimsuit Body”), and being loved.
While it didn’t exist for teenage me, I’m so glad it exists for everyone who’s currently a teenager and struggling with body image issues. Plus, adult me enjoys it just as much as teenage me would have.
Positive representation of fat people is still pretty rare in Hollywood. ‘My Mad Fat Diary’ and ‘Dietland’ are two TV shows that come to mind, but there aren’t that many big movies that focus on fat teenagers in a positive way.
And then there’s ‘Insatiable’, which was released by Netflix earlier this year to a slew of negative reviews, and which was a complete step back for body positivity.
If you like cute movies, drag queens, Dolly Parton, body positivity, or all of the above, watching Dumplin’ is a fantastic way to spend part of your weekend. And even if you don’t like any of those things, you should watch it anyway – it might surprise you.