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Why everyone is so excited about Dumplin’, Netflix’s new Jennifer Aniston movie

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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It drops on 7 December, and we can’t wait. 

Netflix has a lot of grovelling to do when it comes to body positive entertainment. 

It was Netflix, after all, that produced and released Insatiable, the television show about a plus-size woman who is punched in the face, has to have her jaw wired shut, and promptly loses a whole bunch of weight and is transformed into a desirable beauty overnight. It was badly conceived, badly written and, quite frankly, badly done.

Which is why the timing of the release of Dumplin’ could not be more fortuitous. We’re not saying that Dumplin’ is a reaction to Insatiable – the movie was already in the works for years before the television show came and went – it’s just that Dumplin’ looks smart, self-assured, funny, empowering and, most importantly, kind. All things that Insatiable definitively was not.

Dumplin’ tells the story of Willowdean Dickson (Danielle Macdonald), or Dumplin, as her mother Rosie Dickson (Jennifer Aniston) calls her. Rosie is a fading pageant queen and one-time Miss Teen Blue Bonnet whose life now revolves around hosting and organising the pageant. 

When Willowdean and her best friend Ellen (Odeya Rush) decide to enter the pageant as a protest, to make a point that anyone, no matter what they look like, can join and even win a beauty contest, the relationship between Willowdean and her mother is put under a microscope. 

The reaction to the release of the movie’s trailer this week has been euphoric, praising its portrayal of a plus-size woman who doesn’t need to a) be the victim of a violent act or b) lose weight, in order to empower herself. As Willowdean says in the trailer: “There’s nothing in the rules that say that big girls need not apply.”

Here are some of the reasons why everyone is so excited for Dumplin’

That cast, that cast!

Netflix has assembled something of a crack team for Dumplin’. In supporting roles you’ll find Dove Cameron as a b*tchy pageant queen, Luke Benward as Willowdean’s super-cute colleague and potential love interest, and Odeya Rush as Willowdean’s beautiful best friend Ellen, whose success in the pageant becomes a bit of a sore spot between the two.

But it’s the two leads that we really want to focus on here: Jennifer Aniston and Danielle Macdonald. As Rosie, Aniston is 50% pageantry indignance and 50% hairspray. It’s been so long since we got to see Aniston do her thing onscreen, and watching her sashay around, magnificently mascaraed in the kind of bejewelled frock last seen on Dynasty, is such a treat.

Jennifer Aniston is a washed-up pageant queen in Dumplin’ 

Macdonald is a relative newcomer, but she’s been one to watch after the Australian actress first wowed audiences at the Sundance Film Festival with her performance as a precocious teen rap star in Patti Cake$. From there she booked the lead in Dumplin’, as well as starring roles in the television show Unbelievable alongside Toni Collette and film projects with Emma Roberts and Jamie Bell. She can also be seen in the upcoming Netflix movie Bird Box, premiering 21 December, with a few actresses you might have heard of – Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson, anyone? 

We’re calling it: Danielle Macdonald is going to be a huge star. 

Can we talk about Dolly Parton?

Willowdean and Ellen are obsessed with Dolly Parton, and take great comfort in the singer’s lyrics, so much so that they seek the advice of a whole bunch of Dolly Parton drag queens when putting together their pageant performances.

The woman herself also makes an appearance in the movie and curated the film’s entire 12-song soundtrack, which will be released on 30 November. On it, Parton sings with a seriously starry range of women including Sia, Elle King, Miranda Lambert, Macy Gray, Alison Krauss and even contributes a new arrangement of her hit track Jolene and a handful of fresh singles.

Get ready for this album to take pride of place on your Spotify rotation list. 

The source material is ace

Dumplin’ is based on the bestselling 2015 young adult novel of the same name by Julie Murphy. It was a huge hit when it was released with young women, who found its message of self-love and self-confidence incredibly empowering.

Danielle Macdonald dressed up in Dolly Parton gear in Dumplin’

Kristin Hahn, Aniston’s former roommate and producing partner at Echo Films wrote the script, and Anne Fletcher, the filmmaker behind one of the most financially successful romantic comedies of all time (The Proposal), not to mention other huge hits 27 Dresses and Step Up, is directing. 

When can we watch it?

7 December. BYO hairspray. 

Images: Netflix

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