Based on the 2015 young-adult novel by Julie Murphy, the movie “Dumplin’” follows self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson as she maneuvers through a beauty pageant she initially signed up for as a form of protest.
As a teen comedy, “Dumplin’” offers what every other teen movie does: a troubled teenager going through trials and tribulations to ultimately reach a revelation. While the moral of the story of body positivity is a great takeaway, there was hardly any other aspect of the movie that was unique or absolutely stunning–other than the worshiping of Dolly Parton.
The characters show development as the movie progresses, but for a movie with such a socially-forward message, they are quite shallow and lack complexity. For starters, Rosie Dickson, Willowdean’s mom and former beauty queen, is portrayed as only that and nothing more. The relationship of mother and daughter seems to to be pushed as an important development in the movie, but there is hardly any meaningful moment between them that would foster that development. Especially with Willowdean, her whole journey of self-acceptance is displayed to the audience as just having problems to solve and obstacles to overcome. The chances to explore emotional complexity are never taken,and a potentially transformational character simply becomes another cliche girl-overcomes-problems.
Furthermore, the love interest, Bo, is quickly shown to be the dream boyfriend with unmistakable, unrelenting loyalty and sincerity for Willowdean. It is this hot love interest that prompts Willowdean to doubt her worthiness and kick starts the whole movie. Despite being such a monumental part of the movie, the relationship is hardly explored and seems forced into the movie for the sake of staying true to the book. There is no background on how Bo developed an interest in Willowdean and this diluted the romance aspect of the movie–which may be a refreshing spin on teen movies–but for a story that uses that romance as the catalyst for the rest of the plot, it is extremely minimized and downplayed.
That said, “Dumplin’” is still a fun and sweet and sour coming-of-age story. The quirky jokes and dramatic montages make it a light and enjoyable movie while still sending out that self-acceptance message. Though, it misses the mark and falls short on the potential of being a deep and profound film.