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The Antelope

Novel inspires story that demolishes stereotypes


Grace McDonald

5 out of 5 Lopers

If you don’t fit into the box society has for you, society had better find a bigger box. 

Based on Julie Murphy’s bestselling novel, the Netflix Original movie, “Dumplin’,” underlines the courage it takes to go big, while telling the haters to go home. Willowdean Dickson (Danielle MacDonald), battles against the doubts of her ex-beauty queen mother (Jennifer Aniston) and enters into the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet beauty pageant. With her squad of misfits at her side, Willowdean, nicknamed Dumplin,’ blazes a trail of self-love and broken stereotypes, proving that “A swimsuit body is a body with a swimsuit on it.”

Directed by Ann Fletcher, this 2018 film, set in Clover City, Texas, introduces a stream of diverse characters, such as cheerful Millie Michalchuk (Maddie Baillo), rebellious Hannah Perez (Bex Taylor-Klaus), and eccentric drag queens who certainly rock heels better than most individuals. Let’s not forget, the iconic starlet, Jennifer Aniston, who perfectly portrays the embodiment of a hoity-toity, southern pageant matriarch and conflicted mother.

This mix of characters evokes thought, laughter, and tears from audience members, thanks to the realistic relationships broken and repaired throughout the movie. The bond between Willowdean and her best friend, Ellen Driver (Odeya Rush), shatters the standard of the “funny fat friend,” with Willowdean as the powerful protagonist. Meanwhile, Willowdean also butts heads with her mother in accepting the absence of her aunt Lucy (Hilliary Begley) and in embracing the “pageant spirit.”

My only criticism is that the love blossoming between Willowdean and her coworker, Bo Larson (Luke Benward), seemed rushed and needed to progress further. Whatever opinions exist, the characters successfully send the message that love comes in all shapes and sizes.

Coming from someone who has studied the book cover to cover, the movie undoubtedly nails the plot down to specific and important details. Various symbols are used to represent change in the characters’ development, such as Aunt Lucy’s bumblebee pin and the passion-associated color red. The gradual increase of red in Willowdean’s wardrobe symbolizes her acceptance that curves can be sexy too! The attention to detail is impressive when examining the costumes, mood lighting, and camera angles.

Putting the talent and craftmanship aside, “Dumplin’” suggests that the size of one’s heart matters more than the size of their hips. 

The dramatic components, entertaining montages, and moments of revelation, expose Willowdean and others to the truth behind Dolly’s most valuable advice, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

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    Leah LauritsenSep 19, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    Outstanding article!