Entertainment » Television


by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Dec 7, 2018

"Dumplin' " is one of those cute but awkward chick-lit comedies that have become Jennifer Anniston's raison d'etre. They are no stretch for her, and she still manages to put in a charming performance even in this latest lightweight role. The main trouble is that this she is part of a comedy that clumsily attempts to tackle the sensitive subject of sizeism and mine the situation for as many (cheap) laughs it can.

Anniston plays Rosie Dickson, the producer and front person of a local teen pageant show that she reminds us frequently is the oldest and most successful one of its type in Texas. She won the title herself almost 30 years ago and works desperately hard at her image to always appear like a beauty queen even now. Over the years, as she has capitalized on the pageant, she's neglected Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), her teenage daughter, who was practically raised by her Aunt Lucy (Hilliary Begley), who was a rotund jolly woman with a real zest for having as much as fun in life - i.e., the total opposite of her sister.

When her aunt suddenly dies, Willowdean (or Will, as her friends call her) is bereft and clings to her memories of all the good times they had together and her deep love of everything Dolly Parton that she had inherited. This plus-sized teenager feels now rather at a crossroads, and when her mother loudly calls her "Dumplin' " in public one time too often, it stirs her into some action.

Amongst all her aunt's possessions, she discovers a completed application to take part in the pageant years ago that she had never submitted. Determined to follow this dream on her aunt's behalf (and also rile her mother), Will decides that she will enter the pageant this year. Her example encourages another couple of others, including Millie (Maddie Baillio), another plus-size girl, who is not just part of Will's rebellion but also actually wants to win.

The setup is perfect for exploiting cliche humor about size, and there is even a hot boy, Bo (Luke Benward), who works with Will and makes a pass at her, which gives her yet another chance to angst over her size.

By this point, there are no surprises in how this will turn out, especially after a side trip to a drag bar where the performers take Will and her friends in hand. After all, we know that Rosie is not really a bad mother - she has just strayed from her real maternal duties.

Directed by Anne Fletcher from a script based on the best selling novel by Julie Murphy, the saddest part about "Dumplin' " is that it's such a poor role for MacDonald. This extremely talented actor, who gave a stunning breakthrough performance in "Patty Cake$" last year, deserves something better than this stereotype of a character.

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.


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