Title: Dumplin’
Released: 2018

Source Material
Title: Dumplin’ (Dumplin’ #1)
Author: Julie Murphy
Published: 2015
Series: Dumplin’

Dumplin’ is finally here!!! Grab your tiara and a Texas-sized glass of booze and join us in the lab as we fangirl over this female-directed (!) adaptation. 

Note: If you’re worried about spoilers, stop reading after the drinking game!

The Official FYA Dumplin’ Drinking Game

Take a drink whenever:

  • A Dolly Parton song plays
  • Someone quotes Dolly
  • A Magic 8 ball is consulted
  • Aunt Lucy’s pin shows up in a scene
  • Another segment of the pageant begins
  • A drag queen performs

Take a shot whenever:

  • Bo and Willowdean kiss
  • You spot Julie Murphy’s cameo

Finish your drink whenever:

  • The Miss Teen Blue Bonnet first runner-up is announced

Diamonds in a Rhinestone World

Casting is always crucial, but for a story that involves body image and identity, it’s downright VITAL. That’s why I’m incredibly relieved to say that these actors crushed it. Danielle Macdonald captures Willowdean’s complicated mix of dynamic personality and lack of confidence, while imbuing her with charm and relatability. Which, if you’ve seen Patti Cake$, should come as no surprise. I absolutely loved Odeya Rush as Ellen–her take on a kind, fun, all-around-great best friend lit up the screen–while Bex Taylor-Klaus insured that Hannah was more than just a stereotypical rebel. But honestly, the title of My Favorite Actor in Dumplin‘ Pageant goes to Maddie Baillio, who really stole the show as Millie by giving the character such interesting and surprising layers (perhaps even more than the book version). I teared up a lot while watching this movie, but I legit cried when she won first runner-up. 

To be honest, I wasn’t sold on the idea of Jennifer Aniston as Rosie, but watching her balance the veneer of Pageant Director with a genuine love for her daughter made a believer out of me. I still think she could’ve used a bit more Tami Taylor-ness, but overall, Aniston showcased Rosie’s inner conflicts in a realistic, endearing way. 

Luke Benward was exactly the Bo I pictured. He’s hot without looking too Hollywood, and his chemistry with Willowdean sparked with a sweet familiarity. 

Also, who else was like, “Is that Kathy Najimy?!!” when she showed up as Millie’s mom? 

Otherwise I’d Be a Drag Queen

Obviously, the most eagerly anticipated scene for me was the first trip to the Hideaway, which the film really brought to life, from the set design to the performers. Ginger Minj was beyond fabulous, and Harold Perrineau gave a lovely empathy to Lee (though I wondered why they didn’t cast a drag queen in the role). With that said, I could’ve used a little more sass and attitude–or maybe I’m just spoiled from A Star Is Born.

A New Thread for My Old Spool

It’s been a while since I read the book, but I did catch a few changes. The characters of Amanda and Mitch were removed, the former I barely recall and the latter I think was a good move, because Willowdean’s treatment of him casts a negative light on her character which would have been difficult to overcome in a film format. But the most egregious difference between the book and the movie? Rosie never says, “Let the glitter fall where it may.” I DO DECLARE A TRAVESTY!

Those are small details, though. The important thing is that the film channels the spirit of the book and explores its themes with depth and care. 

The First Thing On My Mind

  • I wondered if the movie might over-do it with Dolly, which yeah, okay, isn’t really possible BUT the soundtrack enhanced each scene without overpowering it–same with the Dolly quotes/references. 

  • Similarly, the Texas-ness of the movie was just about right. It never felt too campy, but there were some excellent touches (the “Hook Em Horns” on the Harpy’s Hamburgers sign) that firmly set it in the Lone Star State. Plus, the Southern-isms were used effectively but sparingly.

  • The pageant ensembles were MAJOR!!!! I adored Willowdean and Ellen’s bathing suit combo, and Will’s formal dress was divine, but the crown goes to this dazzling concoction:

  • One of my few complaints surrounds Willowdean’s motivation. In the book, you gain a strong grasp on her warring emotions, but in the film, I had a harder time understanding certain decisions–in particular, when she retreats from Millie, Hannah and the pageant. Her character in the book isn’t always a picnic, but in the movie, her reactions (to her mother especially) sometimes felt way off-base. 

  • How much did you love Julie Murphy’s cameo? That closing scene was totes wonderful. 

We Got Somethin’ Goin’ On

Praise be to Saint Dolly Parton and the gods of YA adaptions, Dumplin’ is absolutely delightful and deserving of its novel roots. Also, if it doesn’t spawn a trend of big hair and everything sequins, I will be sorely disappointed. 

What did y’all think?! Go big or go home with your raves and rants in the comments!

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Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.