Fresh from her breakout performance in last year’s ‘Patti Cake$’ Danielle Macdonald has traded her freestyle raps and fur coats for rhinestones and tiaras in new country and western comedy ‘Dumplin”. Adapted from Julie Murphy’s novel of the same name the story sees Willowdeen (Macdonald) struggling to get over a family tragedy which isn’t made any easier as she constantly clashes with her beauty queen obsessed mother Rosie, played by Jennifer Aniston, who herself also happens to be a previous winner of local pageant Miss Teen Blue Bonnet.
This new Netflix film sees the world of beauty pageants and country & western quickly colliding. Willowdeen is a life long Dolly Parton fan who can’t quite relate to her mother’s heavy involvement in the pageant world often causing friction between the pair. So when Willowdeen decides to enter the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant, which Rosie is in charge of, their mother daughter relationship is really put to the test. Much of ‘Dumplin” is rather sentimental. There are several plot points that warrant this sentimentality and it’s important for them to have their time to showcase this. Thankfully it never becomes sickly but ‘Dumplin” could have done with spending less time becoming overemotional and more time exploring and making the most of the unique cultures it features within its story. Other than this sentiment that on occasion risks overstaying its welcome the narrative is a humourous and heartfelt drama with plenty of good and wholesome messages to convey. All accompanied by a soundtrack consisting solely of the country queen herself, Dolly Parton, it’s hard not to have a good time with it.
If this is the first time you’ll see Macdonald perform you might find it hard to imagine her as a freestyle rapper from New Jersey but seriously go watch ‘Patti Cake$’, she nails it. It’s a similar story here but just in a setting that couldn’t be further from her previous role wonderfully demonstrating the versatility of this young actress. Jennifer Aniston is the big named actress starring here as Willowdeen’s mother. She’s great in the role and easily believable but it would have been good to see her take this character even further, presenting a more extreme individual that we know exist within this unique world of competitive pageants. Despite this she’s still a brilliant presence in the film as she always is and there’s a whole host of drag queens, including ‘Ru Paul’s Drag Race’ contestant Ginger Minj, to make up for any campness lacking from Aniston’s performance! The rest of the supporting cast are made up of a collection of talented up and coming performers and some more recognisable faces who combine together to create a very watchable cast, with the only thing missing being a tongue pop from Miss Alyssa Edwards.
Telling a coming of age story through the world of beauty pageants, drag shows and country & western music ‘Dumplin” feels all the more qualified to preach its messages of acceptance and embracing people from all walks of life. It’s maybe a little too concerned with the more emotional side of its narrative, if it was to evoke its endearing humour only a little further a much more well rounded finished product it would be. So whilst it’s maybe not going to get the title of pageant winner, thanks to its crowd pleasing story, likeable cast and positive vibes ‘Dumplin” easily rises to the top to walk away with the Miss Congeniality prize and deservedly so too.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 7.5/10
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