Dumplin’ disappoints

Well, it’s happened again. Movie trailers have led us to believe that Netflix made a great movie about strong women, body positivity, empowerment and acceptance of all kinds of people, when in reality, it is about a petty conflict that is so loose it never should have happened in the first place.
Netflix was pushing their new original movie “Dumplin’” on me the other week, and because watching crummy teen dramas is a guilty pleasure and it looked like it at least had a good message to it, I decided to give it a watch.

The premise of the movie was that the lead character, Willowdean, who has a fuller figure, was going to enter a beauty pageant to prove that she had what it takes to make a queen. Supposedly she would stick it to her distant mother in the process and pursue a love interest with a popular boy.
However, what the trailer failed to mention was that the entire conflict was going to be based on a petty argument and the entire plan was so shoddily put together, that it just made the middle bit hard to watch.

Willowdean’s mother, played by Jennifer Aniston, was ridiculously obnoxious and obsessive over pageants, which she lead and judged in the film, and was played very well, as Aniston is known for playing such roles, like Rachel from “Friends”.

Willowdean, or Will, was played by Danielle Macdonald, whom I was unfamiliar with. Macdonald is an Australian actress who seems to be an up and comer, this being her second major work after being in another dramatic film entitled “Patti Cake$”. It should be mentioned that she is incredibly gorgeous and has a very light yet strong personality, and she incorporates that into her character.

You could tell that in the beginning of the film she had fun with the character and made her to be the resilient, strong-willed young lady the trailer advertised, but after the conflict started to be introduced it became difficult, as a character with that much strength wouldn’t make such problems for herself in the real world. Unfortunately, this character inconsistency proved to be something I couldn’t overlook.
As far as the technical aspects, the cinematography, done by Elliot Davis (who also did cinematography for Twilight in 2008), was incredibly tasteful and really added to the film. It was also really with the times and would appeal to the younger crowd it was intended for because of the more modern yet nostalgic aesthetic.

The soundtrack was simple, but made sense for the movie as Dolly Parton was Will’s muse throughout the film. Any time there was a radio on in the background it would be playing a Dolly Parton song. Any big montage that happened was set to a Dolly Parton song. Any time the characters sang anything, it was Dolly Parton. There was the classic drama soundtrack in the background during some more emotional moments where Parton just wouldn’t fit that were quite effective, but if you’re not a fan of her work, I would not recommend this movie to you.

The sets were simple and tasteful and set the vibe for every scene. Specifically one room in Willowdean’s house that was used for Dolly Parton parties, that looked so cozy and inviting it made you want to raid a Goodwill and set one up of your own.

I blame the writing for the ultimate tastelessness of the plot. It was written along the classic cheesy teen drama plotline: insecurities and tragedy create a character with backstory, something happens causing a small conflict, character tries to solve the conflict, makes it worse, tries again with more gumption and ultimately wins the day. This seems to be the formula that Director Anne Fletcher offers in a lot of her films, such as “Step Up,” “27 Dresses,” and “The Proposal”.

It should be noted, however, that the film was based on a book by Julie Murphy, so there is blame to share.

The insecurities (of body dysmorphia), mixed with tragedy, made the main character into a very strong-minded and confident young woman as she grew up because of the life lessons that she learned at an early age. This is clearly demonstrated through the first 25 minutes of the movie, but then it’s as if she forgets all of that and lets her insecurities become her. I understand that teens have vicious mood swings sometimes, but she was relatively stable up until this point, making it hard to understand why she now felt this way.

She decides to go into the pageant to prove that she could do it. However, you would think that a girl like her, with such a sharp mind and strong opinions, would enter, roll with the punches, overcome obstacles and adapt to the environment, then come out on top, winning the boy and the pageant, as well as the hearts of the now empowered audience.
She enters just to be there and undermine the whole operation, which her friends know won’t be as effective as taking the competition seriously and proving that you don’t need to fit into society’s seemingly narrow standards of beauty to in fact be beautiful. She is followed on her endeavor by a best friend from childhood named Ellen, a bubbly, Jesus-loving follower of similar physique named Millie, and the signature feminist punk girl, Hannah.
What I would have liked to see was the story of Millie Mitchellchuck, the bubbly, Jesus loving friend, played by Maddie Baillio, who is absolutely charming to everyone she meets, especially if they are mean to her.

Will looks down on Millie and thinks she’s just naive, not understanding that that is just her coping mechanism. I would much rather watch a movie where she decides one day that she wants to do the pageant, signs up against her over-protective mother’s wishes, then befriends every girl in the competition and winning the hearts of everyone and changing their opinions of what it means to be beautiful. Maybe at the end they all get ice cream and there’s that cliché joke about a skinny girl who has been on a diet her whole life eating sugar for the first time and just letting loose.

However, the movie did have some high points that did make an impact on the audience and probably saved the whole film from being a total dump. For example, Will opens up to her best friend Ellen Dryver, played by Odeya Rush, about her insecurities. They are driving in the car and have this moment of understanding that was really powerful. Ellen, although built like the other girls in the pageant, still had insecurities about her body in intimate situations just like her friend, and they were able to comfort each other with that understanding. If you ask me, there needed to be more scenes like that.

However, if you are looking for a simple watch that you don’t need to think too much about and you can overlook some flaws, this movie may be for you.