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Dumplin' Review: Netflix finally succeeds in creating a body positive rom-com

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Verdict: Body positivity, glitter, drag queens and Dolly Parton... what's not to love?

When Netflix announced they were adapting Julie Murphy's 2015 smash hit novel Dumplin', fans were worried. Would it be another Sierra Burgess is a Loser attempt of showcasing body positivity and tragically failing? Or would it go down the Insatiable route of being a big mess?

Lucky for us, and for Netflix, Dumplin' (2018) is a total marvel. Directed by Anne Fletcher (27 Dresses, The Proposal, and Step Up) Dumplin', which is set in Texas, follows Willowdean 'Dumplin' Dickson (Danielle Macdonald), and her beauty pageant-obsessed mother Rosie (Jennifer Aniston) as they navigate life after the loss of Willowdean's beloved aunt Lucy (Hillary Begley). 

Willowdean and her mother don't see eye to eye, Rosie is an ex-beauty queen who is still obsessed with fad diets and fitting into her old dresses. Willowdean, on the other hand, is more interested in Dolly Parton - an obsession which makes its way to the film's incredible soundtrack composed by Dolly herself (and already up for a Golden Globe for the best original song!) 

Whilst rummaging through her late aunt's belongings, Willowdean discovers that she had once applied to take part in the 'Miss Teen Bluebonnet' but backed out last minute because of a lack of confidence. As a protest against her mother and the patriarchal narrative of beauty pageants, Willowdean and her friends sign up to take part. Much to the surprise of the pageant's director, Willowdean's mother, Rosie.

In some of the best scenes of the film, Willowdean and her friends turn for help from a group of Dolly Parton drag queens, who help to groom them into beauty queens to be. They all turn out in force to watch Willowdean, El (Odeya Rush), Millie (Maddie Baillio) and Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus) compete in the pageant. A particularly charming scene is the swimsuit portion of the pageant where the girls make a statement that 'Every body is a swimsuit body' echoing social media campaigns from the last few years.

Body posivity and loving who you are is a huge theme throughout the film, with one of the very first lines uttered being "It's hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world." Dumplin' isn't about changing who you are to fit in, it's about being who you are and being ok with it. 

The strong female friendships between the girls is the backbone of the film, and despite a few disagreements between Willowdean and El, we are shown that friendship will prevail through the good times and the bad.

There's a will-they-won't-they romantic undertone to the film, between Willowdean and her co-worker Bo (Luke Benward) but that's arguably the least important part of the entire film, so it was disappointing to see the end place so much emphasis upon it. It would be refreshing to see a coming of age film about a girl, which doesn't end up in her landing the man of her dreams who will love her no matter what. It's a tired cliche without which, Dumplin' could have easily been a 5-star film. 

The true love story in Dumplin' is that between mother and daughter. It's complicated, it's messy and at times it's really hard - but it's unconditional. MacDonald and Aniston play the part of mother and daughter so perfectly, that their flawed but the loving relationship will leave your heart warm by the time the end credits roll.  

Dumplin' is out now on Netflix.

 

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