What Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald) wants more than anything is to be accepted, extra pounds and all, by her beauty-crazed community—and especially her pageant director mother (Jennifer Aniston), who persists in calling her the ill-defining nickname “Dumplin’.”
When she and her friends decide to buck the system and enter the town’s revered Miss Teen Bluebonnet competition, they are in for some misery as well as, ultimately, growth. Friendship is a key theme here as Willowdean's friends surround her with support, whether she wants it or not. Cheerful, chubby Millie (a luminous Maddie Baillio) comes from an ultra-strict church home and lies to her mother to enter the pageant. As both Millie and her starchy mother learn hard truths about each other and their constraining worldview, Millie's faith shines. One of the most radiant moments in the film is when Millie sings a soaring hymn for the talent competition.
Scored by a winsome soundtrack by Dolly Parton, including some new songs written for the movie, Dumplin’ preaches that “every body is a swimsuit body.” This film endears while it explores body image, loyalty, grief, and tricky mother-daughter relationships. Note: A subplot involves the drag queen friends of Willowdean's beloved late aunt; their function is to encourage the misfit contestants and any bawdiness is kept to a minimum. (Netflix)