‘Dumplin”: Comparing Netflix’s Motion Picture Adaptation to Julie Murphy’s Original Novelization

How does Netflix's version of 'Dumplin'' compare to the original story

Dumplin Movie Book Comparison

Dumplin’ from Julie Murphy is now officially available on Netflix! This is yet another young adult novel-to-film adaptation to be taken on by the streaming platform and as always I was faced with the question of how it would stack up against the book that made me laugh and cry and look within. Here is a breakdown of how the Netflix Original Movie Dumplin’ stacked up to its insightful source material.

Dumplin Movie Book Comparison

Stories Other Than Willowdean’s

One of the biggest differences between the story Julie Murphy told on the page and what Netflix premiered on the screen is how they focused on the overarching theme of loving yourself. On the screen, the story of self-discovery belongs almost entirely to Willowdean, and with her being the main character the decision makes sense. What the audience misses out on is everyone else’s story of overcoming insecurities and being who they are on purpose. We don’t get to see Elle struggle with her own feelings of needing to be accepted by the in crowd or Bo dealing with the ghosts of his past and who everyone thinks he should be versus who he wants to be; even how Rosie feels the need to maintain her Miss Teen Bluebonnet physique to escape the big girl she used to be. Having Willowdean’s story being about more than just her, and about everyone around her was one of the things that made Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ shine and it was just missing on screen.

Millie

A star is born! Anyone who has read the book knows that Millie is a tour de force of positivity and determination, even when faced with the cruelty of her everyday life as a big girl. Maddie Baillio took this sweet character who finds that she can hold her own and breathes such beautiful life into her on the screen. Both on screen and on the page she is never afraid to be herself, and never lets what other people have to say about her dampen her high spirits, but what Baillio does as Millie is heartwarming and inspiring. What stands out so much about her story isn’t the growth we see her go through, but rather the fact that she was always who she was meant to be and everyone else catches up to her just in time to see her shine.

Bo Versus Lucy

While his and Willowdean’s love story was a central part of the novel, the movie decided to move away from that and focus more on Willowdean’s memories and relationship with Lucy. In the novel, Bo’s relationship with Willowdean was where a lot of her own insecurities stemmed from, one of her biggest struggles was believing that a boy like Bo would be not just interested but actively pursuing her. It made her think more about her body than just about anything else in the story. While that’s touched on in the film it isn’t as central as it maybe should have been, that void is filled by Lucy. Although she’s not alive during the events of the movie or the book, Willowdean’s aunt Lucy plays a huge roll in her niece’s life, she gives Willowdean the love of Dolly and someone to look up to. It’s through missing Lucy that Willowdean is able to find her people and figure out who she is despite what people are telling her she is.

Bring in the Queens

I will be the first to admit that this item on the list could be personal bias, but the extra screen time given to the drag queens of the Hideaway was that little extra sparkle this film needed. The queens were mentioned here and there in the book during Willlowdean, Millie, and Hannah’s mission to get pageant ready but having them in the audience and walking them through talents and makeup lessons really added to the narrative.

As is a given for any movie based on a book, Dumplin’ had its fair share of differences and deviations from the original story, but the point of the story, the real message of loving yourself and being who you are on purpose is still there. It’s still about not just discovering the person you are despite what the world is screaming back at you, but finding out who you are and doing it on purpose.

How do you think the two compare, are you a bigger fan of the book or the movie?

Let us know in the comments!

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Rachel Gonzalez
the authorRachel Gonzalez
Staff Writer
Rachel is a writer from Arizona who recently finished her BA at Northern Arizona University. Her four years in a mountain town got her a degree in English coupled with certificates in creative writing and literature and minors in journalism and anthropology. Her passions outside of reading and writing include RuPaul’s Drag Race, film and fitness. She loves YA fiction and comedy and hopes to turn those two loves into a novel in the near future. Favorite books: Looking for Alaska by John Green—actually, everything by John Green, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini