Published by The Wrap / 12 Sep 2018
Jennifer Aniston Beauty Pageant Dramedy ‘Dumplin’ Lands at Netflix
Dolly Parton recorded new versions of her classic songs with collaborations from Sia and Miranda Lambert for soundtrack
Netflix announced on Wednesday it has picked up U.S. and international rights to “Dumplin,” a comedic drama starring Jennifer Aniston and “Patti Cakes$” star Danielle Macdonald.
The film, directed by Anne Fletcher (“The Proposal,” “27 Dresses”), is about the plus-size, teenage daughter (Macdonald) of a former beauty queen (Aniston), who signs up for her mom’s pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town.
The script was written by Kristin Hahn, adapted from the New York Times bestselling novel of the same name by author Julie Murphy. “Dumplin’” also stars Odeya Rush (“Lady Bird,” “Goosebumps”), Dove Cameron (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Liv and Maddie”) Harold Perrineau (“Lost”), Bex Taylor-Klaus and Ginger Minj.
Netflix will release the film in the U.S. and select international territories later this year. It will also be released in select U.S. theaters. The debut musical number, “Here I Am,” a reworking of Parton’s 1971 song, will be released Sept. 14.
Music plays a big part in the film and features collaborations and original music from country icon Dolly Parton, who recorded new versions of her classic songs with collaborators such as Sia and Miranda Lambert. “Dumplin’” also has six new original songs co-written by Parton and Linda Perry.
Even Macdonald, who rapped in “Patti Cakes$,” and Aniston lend their voices to the soundtrack, which will be released Nov. 30.
Michael Costigan, Mohamed AlRafi and his company 50 Degrees Entertainment, Hahn and Trish Hofmann served as producers on the film, with Aniston and Danny Nozell executive producing.
Aniston is set to star in another Netflix comedy “First Ladies,” a political comedy about a female president (Aniston) and her same-sex first lady (Tig Notaro).
Hear Dolly Parton’s Uplifting ‘Dumplin” Song ‘Girl in the Movies’
New Netflix film, out December 7th, features a soundtrack of Parton collaborations with Miranda Lambert, Sia and others
Dolly Parton’s newly released “Girl in the Movies,” a song from the forthcoming soundtrack of the Netflix film Dumplin’, is sung from the perspective of the film’s title character. But its lyrics are just as applicable to Parton’s own rags-to-riches fairytale of a life, from a one-room cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee to global stardom on the big screen.
A dreamy ballad, both literally and figuratively, “Girl in the Movies” sets its initial scene in a movie theater just as the lights dim and a film begins. With gentle acoustic guitar in the background, Parton sings, “Up on the silver screen I picture me, living out my passions, hope and fantasies.”
In the poignant second verse, Parton sings of the desire to have the confidence to pursue her dreams, continuing the movie-themed metaphor with the line, “Here’s a preview of some things to come, it’s not too late for me to be someone.”
Premiering on Netflix December 7th, Dumplin’ stars Danielle Macdonald as plus-sized Texas teenager Willowdean Dickson, nicknamed Dumplin’ by her mother, a former beauty queen played by Jennifer Aniston. The Dumplin’ soundtrack, on which Parton duets with Miranda Lambert, Alison Krauss, Sia, Elle King, Macy Gray and others, will be released November 30th and is now available for pre-order.
Dumplin’ Is a Breath of Fresh Air
On its surface, Dumplin’ is a slight, charming comedy about beauty pageants and learning to be yourself, but watch closely enough and you might see some of the new moves it brings to an otherwise predictable routine. Based on Julie Murphy’s 2015 young adult book, the film follows plus-size teen Willowdean Dickson (Danielle Macdonald), whose mother, Rosie (Jennifer Aniston), is a former beauty queen who continues to obsess over the town’s local pageant. Mom and daughter don’t get along too well: Rosie’s world of hairspray and tight dresses and perfect posture — a big deal in their town of Clover City, Texas — means nothing to Willowdean. But in some ways, the teenager is a lot more grounded than the grown-up. Seemingly content being herself, Willowdean displays a cutting sense of humor and a certain devil-may-care confidence, instilled by her late aunt Lucy, who also fostered an undying love for Dolly Parton in the young girl.
Willowdean’s war of attrition with her mom reaches new heights when she discovers among her late aunt’s things a half-filled-out entry form for a beauty pageant back in 1993, when Lucy was herself a teen. Realizing that her confident, heroic aunt probably never submitted the form due to insecurities about her own weight — mom makes a point that she and her sister were both heavy as kids but that Rosie lost the pounds — our heroine decides to enter the local pageant. Which her mortified mother just happens to run.
Joining Willowdean at the pageant are her cheerfully supportive best friend Ellen (Odeya Rush), as well another heavy-set girl from school, Millie Michalchuk (Maddie Baillio), and take-no-shit metalhead lesbian Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus). Their initial plan is to completely upend and ruin the event, as a revolutionary act, but then they start to enjoy some of the dancing and the songs and the idea of getting up onstage and proving what they can do. So, why not help change the system from the inside?
That’s where the valiant vision of Dolly Parton, with her sassy, glamorous form of headstrong rebellion, comes in handy. Together, the girls go to a local bar where drag queens lip-synch to Dolly songs. When it turns out that Lucy herself was once a regular there, the quartet are embraced by the performers and clients, and soon enough, these young women are getting a crash course in being the best possible versions of their true selves. (The soundtrack, needless to say, is awash in Dolly Parton songs, which is kind of awesome.)
For a seemingly frivolous teen comedy, Dumplin’ has to keep a lot of balls in the air. Here’s where director Anne Fletcher’s light touch helps tremendously. She made a couple of the best romantic comedies at the tail end of the genre’s heyday — 27 Dresses and The Proposal — and she has a way of instilling basic comic conflicts with a heady dose of humanism. She often does this by focusing on the chemistry between her actors and simply watching them behave around each other. (Her last feature, the Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara bust Hot Pursuit, didn’t quite work, but still had some lovely performances.) One of the pleasures of Dumplin’ is watching the four young actresses work together, as they look to bend the competition to suit their own identities. It helps too that Fletcher is a celebrated choreographer — she also directed the first Step Up film — and goes to town with some of the pageant set pieces.
It’d be easy for Dumplin’ to settle into just another competition narrative, or to keep playing up the conflict between Willowdean and her mom, or to focus primarily on its romantic subplot. (The protagonist has a crush on the hunky grill-man, played by Luke Benward, at the diner where she works —but doesn’t know how to respond when it turns out that he might like her back.) The movie purposefully steers clear of all that. The pageant scenes are delightful, but they mostly avoid focusing on the competition itself, on the minutiae of who might win and who’s ahead.
More importantly, the fraught relationship between Willowdean and Rosie manages to retain its complexity throughout. Mom is never seen as callous or cartoonish, but rather as someone who learns to accept that her daughter can be a part of her beloved pageant world without changing who she is. For her part, Aniston does a fine job balancing Rosie’s broader elements with what feels like a genuine concern for her child.
And the romantic subplot, thank god, feels like an afterthought, albeit a touching one. Willowdean’s worth as a person is never pinned to her ability to win the guy in the end; even so, Macdonald’s scenes with Benward have an affable, offhand quality that suggests they’d be good together. Maybe that goes to the heart of what makes Dumplin’, for all its sweet familiarity and simplicity, so often feel like a breath of fresh air: This world feels so lived-in, and its characters so engaging, that you often find yourself wondering what they’ll do once the cameras stop rolling.
Jennifer Aniston Is a Former Pageant Queen with a Plus-Size Daughter in Dumplin’ Trailer
Danielle Macdonald, who earned raves last year for her performance as an aspiring rapper in Patti Cake$, is back to take names — and the crown — in trailer for Dumplin’
Are your highest heels on? Are your curls sufficiently hair-sprayed? Are your sequins shining as bright as a disco ball? Good. Now you’re ready to meet Jennifer Aniston, pageant queen. In Netflix’s new Dumplin’, Aniston plays a a former beauty queen who’s now in charge of the local Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant. When her Dolly Parton–obsessed daughter Willowdean (Patti Cake$’ Danielle Macdonald) decides to stage a protest and compete in the pageant herself, other plus-size contenders follow. (“No, I’m not the Joan of Arc of fat girls,” Willowdean protests.) Dumplin’ co-stars Harold Perrineau in drag, and Lady Bird’s popular girl Odeya Rush. See it on Netflix and in select theaters December 7.
Danielle Macdonald, who earned raves last year for her performance as an aspiring rapper in Patti Cake$, is back to take names — and the crown — in a new trailer for Dumplin’.
Macdonald, 27, plays Willowdean, the plus-size daughter to a former pageant queen (played by Jennifer Aniston) who relives her glory days in their small Texas town by hosting Miss Teen Bluebonnet.
“Bein’ a bit of a celebrity around here meant that she was a little too busy for me,” Willowdean, whose mom calls her “Dumplin,” says in the trailer. “And that’s when I decided enough was enough.”
Willowdean decides to enter her Mom’s pageant as an act of rebellion. Though she doesn’t want to be “the Joan of Ark of Fat Girls,” Willowdean’s decision ultimately inspires others who don’t fit the pageant archetype to sign up.