If you would’ve told me that a movie about a beauty pageant would end up being one of 2018’s most empowering movies, I probably would’ve had a good laugh. Women prancing around on stage in bathing suits, getting scored for their appearance? Thanks, but no thanks. Fortunately my ideas about the entire process were completely flipped by Dumplin’, a dazzling comedy-drama with a Dolly Parton-themed soundtrack so good I could cry.

The adaptation of Julie Murphy’s New York Times bestselling YA novel was brought to the screen by writer Kristin Hahn, which led to her longtime friend Jennifer Aniston joining the film, and soon everything else — including singer-songwriter and all-around queen Dolly Parton’s involvement — fell into place. If you haven’t read Murphy’s book, the film stars Australian actress Danielle Macdonald as Willowdean Dickson, a “self-proclaimed fat girl” who’s dubbed “Dumplin'” by her former beauty-queen mom (Aniston). Willowdean’s assurance in herself is brought crashing down by a sweet romance with her handsome coworker, Bo, so she decides to regain her confidence by entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant run by her mother.

I recently hopped on the phone with Hahn to discuss everything from the unexpectedly empowering message of beauty pageants, the special meaning behind Aniston’s character, and the magic of Dolly Parton. (Once you finish reading, hop over to Netflix and start streaming Dumplin’ ASAP — you’ll thank me later.)

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