Beauty pageants are big business in Texas and for Rosie Dixon (Jennifer Aniston) they are everything. Pretty dresses on pretty girls, the definition of picture perfect beauty. But for her daughter Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), pageants are a showcase of everything that she believes she is not. She’s a plus size girl who loves nothing more than hanging out with her best friend Ellen (Odeya Rush), working at the local burger shop with the handsome Bo (Luke Benworth) and singing Dolly Parton songs. She is nothing like the pageant girls her mother loves, but lessons taught to her by her beloved Aunt Lucy lead Willowdean to believe that being big or being different won’t stop her and her friends from taking to the stage.
If you take Little Miss Sunshine and Misbehaviour, smash them together and mix in a little bit of Hairspray and Kinky Boots for good measure, you end up with Dumplin’. Released on Netflix in 2018, this film takes the idea of a beauty pageant movie and flips it on it’s head. It is a statement against the stereotypical ideas of beauty, proudly claiming that a swimsuit body is any body with a swimsuit on it. The action centres around Willowdean, the plus sized daughter of a former beauty queen who decides to take part in her local pageant alongside her friends, fellow ‘big girl’ Millie (Hairspray Live’s Tracy Turnblad, Maddie Baillio) and the tomboyish Hannah (Bex Taylor- Klaus) and her best friend Ellen. With the help of a gang of Dolly Parton impersonating drag queens, the girls find their confidence in being themselves and show the pageant judges a whole new level of beauty.
Danielle Macdonald plays Willowdean and is instantly likable in the role. This is a character that is very easy to support, she knows she is a bigger girl, but she doesn’t let that stop her, in fact she shows pride in it and uses that confidence to make important statements. As Ellen, Odeya Rush may fit in with the normal pageant girls with her looks but she is completely on Willowdean’s side of the argument. Maddie Baillio is a delight as Millie, a girl who doesn’t care that she is bigger, she just wants to enjoy life and show off her talents without being made to feel ashamed of the way that she looks. Bex Taylor-Klaus also bucks the beauty pageant trend throughout with her political statements and choice of attire.
Jennifer Aniston impresses in the role of Rosie Dixon, an ex beauty queen who obsesses over fitting into her old dresses and making the young pretty girls of her town such as Bekah (Disney channel star Dove Cameron) into beauty queens. She may not be the easiest of characters to like but she goes through quite a lot in this movie and you do get to see the character change and grow. Luke Benworth only has a small role as Bo, but it is truly wonderful to see the character painted as handsome and the guy all the girls want, not go for the typically pretty girl.
To conclude Dumplin provides a lovely change from the norm, and its great to see bigger girls take centre stage. This is a film that is all about taking pride in yourself and not being afraid to be who are you. It doesn’t matter what society thinks, or what the general ideas of beauty are, if you believe in yourself, that makes you beautiful.