Book & Movie Thoughts: Dumplin’

So, yes. I am the type of person who prefers to read a book before I see a movie. I still haven’t watched Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before because I haven’t gotten my hands on the book yet. But I did have a copy of Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ on my shelf (untouched), thanks in fact due to the Netflix adaptation – especially the fact that it starred Jennifer Aniston and Harold Perrineau (who will always be Mercutio in my heart). Anyway, I decided it was time to pick up the book so I’d have it fresh in my mind once I sat down to watch the movie too.

And yes, Spielberg, it’s a MOVIE, regardless of its distribution platform. But that’s a rant for another day, I suppose… (but seriously, WTF, man? Netflix movies ARE movies. Okay, okay, another day…)

BOOK THOUGHTS: I’m learning something interesting about myself. I’ve always thought of myself as a fan of Young Adult fiction. But every time I’ve tried to read contemporary YA – you know, the kind where they’re just texting and going to class and worrying about the prom – I get…well, a little bored. And annoyed. As I was texting a friend of mine, if the character is sitting in World History upset because their werewolf secret agent best friend is mad at them, and somehow through their doodles they unlock the great mystery that will, in fact, save the world, only they have to figure out how to sneak out of the house because they’re grounded, well, hell, sign me right up. But if the character is sitting in World History upset because their totally normal human best friend is mad at them, and they just doodle about it for the whole class period and go home and sit in their room because they’re grounded… I mean, I get it. It’s a realistic and relate-able…just not to/for me. Not anymore.

So, I suppose I like YA Genre Fiction more than I just “like YA.” I like teenage supernatural beings saving the world and trying to find a date to prom. Or teenage human badasses who are responsible for felling an entire corrupt government. Or teenagers in space! But teenagers in high school just being teenager-y…meh. Been there, done that, got the t-shirts, had my mom make the t-shirts into a quilt.

THAT SAID – Even though I know (now) that Dumplin’ isn’t quite the right genre for me to get swept up in and totally devoted to, I really did enjoy the book. It was a quick, cute, easy read with a main character who did have an exceptionally believable voice and inner struggle, especially for someone like me who has struggled with weight issues and bullying. I liked Willowdean, and I felt a lot of empathy for her. I’d give it 3 – 3.5 Stars, which to me translates to I liked it, I’m not sad I read it, but I probably wouldn’t think to recommend it to anyone unless I knew they were the prime audience for it.

MOVIE THOUGHTS: I’m more apt to recommend the movie than I am the book, which is rare for me, but here’s why. Most of the book is a lot of Willowdean spending time alone lost in thought, or suffering through high school. As I said above, not that interested in suffering through high school again unless this time, it comes with vampires. But the movie strips all of that away – it has to! – and focuses instead on the central plot that really fuels the story: Willowdean, grieving the death of her favorite aunt, decides to break “convention” and enter a small town Texas beauty pageant.

One thing I didn’t like about the book Dumplin’ was Willowdean’s mother, Rosie. I think part of this is due to Julie Murphy writing an incredibly believable sixteen-year-old perspective and, let’s face it, sixteen-year-olds only see the worst in their parents. The movie, on the other hand, gives Rosie a lot more depth, and a lot more moments of…humanity, I guess? I think this is honestly in part to Jennifer Aniston just giving a stellar performance. She breathes a lot of life into a part that could’ve easily been an empty caricature.

There are subplots in the novel that are either entirely erased, reworked, or shortened in order to fit into an hour and fifty minutes, but that’s to be expected. It’s actually something I find fascinating about adapted screenplays, which is a realm of writing I myself have not ventured into since the sixth grade when I tried to write a Tom Sawyer screenplay as a “book report” for class and turned in 35 pages…and was barely out of Chapter Three because I wanted EVERYTHING to be on screen. Oh, little Colette… *pat pat*.

Some of the subplots, though, feel a bit awkward and sudden since we don’t get all the backstory (and Willowdean’s internal musings), but the screenwriter Kristin Hahn did highlight my favorite part of the novel and give it all the love and attention and bonus screen time that it deserved — the drag queens from The Hideaway. I can’t tell you more than that without major spoilers, but seriously, Harold Perrineau, I just adore you.

Have you read and/or seen Dumplin’? What were your thoughts? Share in the comments or tweet me at @ThatColette so we can talk about it!

One comment

  1. I’ve only seen the movie of Dumplin’ (I’m a heretic who prefers to see the movie first; I get anxious the other way around), but what you said about not being into YA contemporary really resonated with me. I’m finding, too, that unless it’s YA genre, I just don’t care as much as I used to. But, yeah, add vampires or monsters, and I’m there.

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