Starring Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Anniston, Odeya Rush, Luke Benward
Netflix’s latest original film (they are killing it this year) is one of those feel-good films that is aimed to inspire. That notion single-handedly trips “Dumplin’” up for most of this movie that is trying to spin a message more than it’s trying to simply be a great film. The filmmakers are trying to nudge “Dumplin’” towards awards consideration (and let’s face it, Netflix has the money to promote all its potential awards contenders) with an original song by Dolly Parton. What you won’t expect is so much of the story, based on the novel, to revolve around Dolly herself. Although those waiting for a cameo at the end will be disappointed. Australian actress Danielle Macdonald is popping up everywhere since her big debut in “Patti Cakes” last year. She can also be seen in Netflix upcoming “Bird Box” and alongside Jamie Bell in “Skin.”
Ridiculed her entire life due to her size and weight, Willowdean “Dumplin” Dickson lives with her single mom Rosie (Aniston), a former beauty queen, who is the organizer of Texas’ longest running local beauty pageant. Out of spite and anger, Willow decided to enter her mother’s pageant, “a protest in heels” she calls it, but her frustration is aimed at the wrong person. Rosie might be self-centered and her interests the opposite of her teenage daughter, but there is unconditional love. Willow and her friends enter the pageant but their ideas of rebellion don’t go quite how they expect. Willow must confront the fact that she is her own worst enemy and trying to gain approval from those that put her down isn’t what she should be focused on.
What "Dumplin’" lacks in authenticity and originality it attempts to make up for with good intentions.
Jennifer Aniston gives a campy, lackluster, phoned-in performance, which is ironic considering it’s set in middle-of-nowhere Texas. The setting reminds us the one time Anniston really impressed on the big screen, “The Good Girl.” “Dumplin’” isn’t “The Good Girl,” and Netflix is has purchased a film here that might otherwise be the Hallmark or Lifetime channels. Director Anne Fletcher (“Hot Pursuit,” “The Guilt Trip“) steers this film exactly where you would expect. There is even a drag show scene in a bar scarily similar to the dull redneck bar scene in “A Star is Born“.
What “Dumplin’” lacks in authenticity and originality it attempts to make up for with good intentions. Odeya Rush appearing here as the best friend reminds us how much stronger and original “Lady Bird” was, while other characters seem to be here only to elevate the diversity of the cast. “Dumplin’” would be a fitting flick to watch on a flight and while Dolly’s “Girl in the Movies” original song is good, it doesn’t stand out among the year’s best. Kristin Hahn’s screenplay can’t find its groove. It’s never sassy enough or bold enough to embrace the ridiculousness of the film’s premise. Less is sometimes more, but more might have been more for this particular type of film.
'Dumplin’" isn’t baked with quality ingredients.