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 charmed 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 rather sensitive subject of sizeism and mine the situation for as many (rather cheap) laughs it can.
Anniston plays Rosie Dickson the producer and front person of a local teen pagent 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 desperately works hard at her image to always appear like a beauty queen even know. Over the years as she has prioritized 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 size 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 possession she discovers a completed application to take part in the pageant years ago that she had never submitted, so determined to follow this dream on her behalf, and also rile her mother, she decides that she will enter herself this year. Her example encourages another couple of rebels including Millie (Maddie Baillio) another plus-size girl who is not just part of Will’s rebellion but also actually wants to win.
The set up is perfect for exploiting all the 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.
There is at this stage 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 is 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 such a cliched stereotype character.