Dumplin’ teaches teens the importance of loving self and others

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Dumplin’ teaches teens the importance of loving self and others

The novel was spectacular, but the film was even better!

The novel was spectacular, but the film was even better!

Elizabeth Anderson

The novel was spectacular, but the film was even better!

Elizabeth Anderson

Elizabeth Anderson

The novel was spectacular, but the film was even better!

by Elizabeth Anderson, Watermark Editor

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The short URL of the present article is: https://lhslance.org/pdyf7

On December 7, Netflix released the new film Dumplin’, based on the novel of the same name by Julie Murphy. Having loved the book, I was eager to see how the movie measured up, especially since it was produced by a streaming service instead of by a production company like Warner Bros. or Universal.

I must say, it exceeded every single expectation. I might even go so far as to say that I liked the movie more than the book, and, as an avid reader, that’s a big statement about the movie’s character and quality.

The novel takes place in a small Texas town whose only claim to fame is its annual Miss Clover City beauty pageant. Willowdean Dickson, the main character, is the daughter of Rosie Dickson, former Miss Clover City winner and current pageant organizer. Willowdean is a self-proclaimed fat girl who is comfortable in her own skin–although she begins to question that when she meets Bo, a former prep school jock who now works with her. But how could he ever return her affection?

In an attempt to regain her confidence and show her community the prejudice against different body types, Willowdean decides to enter the Miss Clover City Pageant. Several other “misfits,” following her example, join as well. Willowdean is inspired by her late Aunt Lucy, her best friend Ellen, and, most importantly, her idol, Dolly Parton.

Classic Dolly Parton songs like “9 to 5” and “Jolene” are featured throughout the film along with six Parton songs written specifically for the movie. I loved the entire soundtrack, including the new songs, which bear a striking resemblance to Parton’s more time-honored music (of course, “Dumb Blonde,” an anthem denouncing stereotypes, will always be my favorite track of hers).

Along with body positivity, the story focuses on major themes such as self-love, compassion, and acceptance.

What I loved most while reading the book is that no character is perfect. Even Willowdean makes mistakes–some of them mirroring the actions of the very people she strives not to be like.

I thought that the film might not portray this aspect of the plot accurately, since movies tend to take imperfect protagonists and turn them into a Mary Poppins. Fortunately, the movie version did the opposite, choosing to amplify Willowdean’s flaws and the means by which she overcomes them.

Willowdean is played by Danielle Macdonald, an actor who previously starred in the 2017 film Patti Cake$ and appeared briefly in several TV series like Glee and American Horror Story. Jennifer Aniston stars alongside Macdonald as Rosie Dickson. Other major roles are filled by Odeya Rush (Ellen), Maddie Baillio (Millie), Bex Taylor-Klaus (Hannah), Luke Benward (Bo), and Harold Perrineau (Lee).

All of these actors portray their respective characters almost exactly as I imagined them. At no point did I feel that a character was not genuine. The actors show that they care about the story, the characters, and the messages presented.

Netflix’s Dumplin’ is a perfect example of what film adaptations of books should be. Yes, aspects of the book were changed or left out, but it would be hard to fit the content of an entire novel into a two hour movie. Instead, Netflix focused on making the book’s themes the movie’s focal point.

I think the most fascinating part of Dumplin’ is that for every person in the audience, there is a character to relate to in some way or another. They are all of different generations, body types, races, sexualities, and backgrounds.

My favorite character has to be Lee, a drag queen who knew Willowdean’s Aunt Lucy. He helps Willowdean gain confidence and stick with her decision to participate in the pageant. In the novel, Lee is a side character, but in the film, he plays the part of the wise, caring role model. He shows that there is much more to a person than how they look which is an important lesson for Willowdean to learn.

This movie is full of highs and lows, alternating back and forth between Willowdean’s rise and fall. These fluctuations are mostly denoted by Willowdean’s view of herself, the mistakes she makes, and the way she is treated by others.

Dumplin’ shows you are allowed to fall short, and that it is okay to mess up, but you have to keep pushing forward. This is something teens struggle with daily in their homes, school, and social spaces.

You can watch Dumplin’ on Netflix or in select theaters now, and you can purchase the original book by Julie Murphy through Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can also buy the novel’s sequel, Puddin’, through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

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