Dumplin’, whose real name is Willowdean, is a smart, kind, capable, funny, and fat (her term) 16-year-old in small-town Texas. Being sixteen is sucky enough, am I right?!, but the “fat” part causes even more trouble than one would expect for Dumplin’ since her mom is the local pageant queen-turned-pageant director, still living on her own pageant days, staying thin to fit in a 30-year-old dress. She was herself once Miss Teen Blue Bonnet and you better believe that’s a big effin’ deal in Clover City. Dumplin’ is pretty bad-ass — she takes her mom in stride for the most part, has a job and a close and supportive best friend, does well in school — but is still a teenager and is thrown for a loop by A BOY, and more important by the recent death of her beloved aunt who seems to have been an antidote to her mom’s well-intentioned harping on appearance and weight loss.
OF COURSE A BOY, and I braced myself for some formulaic nonsense, but was pleasantly surprised. All of the usual components are there: the beautiful best friend, who’s tall, thin, and beautiful, and of course they Have Problems and break up. Another boy comes along. Post-breakup with best friends, there’s newfound closeness with isle of misfit toys-variety friend group. They basically decide to storm/subvert the pageant. There’s some Standing Up To Jackasses.
But but but there’s also Dolly Parton! Lots of Dolly Parton! And drag queens! And some real depth as the new level of intimacy with aforementioned boys makes Dumplin’ uncomfortable with her physical self in a way she wasn’t before, even with her mom’s constant scrutiny.
In the end I thoroughly enjoyed it.