"The Duff" is just another teen movie
"The DUFF" is a newly released teen comedy based on a book by Kody Keplinger “The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend” about your run-of-the-mill, stereotypical troubles of name calling and bullying in high school, just with a millennial twist. Directed by Ari Sandel, known for "West Bank Story" and "Wild West," uses jump-shots often to emphasize the humor and condescending nature of others in the film.
With a new spin on an old story, the actors featured are generally unknown with a few exceptions of Ken Jeong, also known as Mr. Chow from "The Hangover," and Allison Janney from "American Beauty."
The use of smart phones, apps, social media, and sharing are hugely a part of the film to emphasize how fast embarrassing videos can get around and how it is a staple in this generation's activity. The brilliantly witty yet theatrically "ugly" Bianca (Mae Whitman) is the protagonist of all the issues of social media, cyber-bullying, fitting in, and unable to utter three words to her crush.
She’s known as "The DUFF," or "Designated Ugly Fat Friend." She’s comfortable with her two, obviously attractive and talented friends. They’re popular, pretty, and invited to all the cool events in high school, unlike Bianca. Everyone knows it’s the strangest trio of friends, but she chooses to find acceptance in it.
Eventually the film informs that every one has a "DUFF" or is the "DUFF" in a group. Even celebrity Kylie Jenner was recently seen in Los Angeles sporting an “I’m somebody’s DUFF” t-shirt. However, Bianca doesn't realize she’s the "DUFF" of her group until popular jock and long time childhood friend of hers, Wesley (Robbie Amell), points it out at a party.
Strong acting is featured from Bianca, her mother, and her academic advisers in the film; however, the same can't be said for her colleagues. The acting was especially bad in the case of antagonist Madison, where lip gloss and a scowl wasn't enough to deliver the harshness of a bully in high school.
Bianca's experience knowing now that she’s a "DUFF" thematically parallels to her mom’s divorce seminar expertise with the five stages of divorce; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptable to show that we all go through an emotional relationship or attempt at any time of our lives. The issues are timeless.
The parallel to her mother’s divorce advice is a clever device because it helped guide you throughout the movie. They also used a wide range of editing in figures such as arrows, text boxes to show messaging and info graphics for an explained sense of humor featuring explanations about each character as they are introduced into the film. This made the exposition a sort of visual guide.
The downfalls of the film were the overt use of Hollywood airbrushing. It exaggerated aesthetic; the ultra slim and tall body types, and perfect physical features that high school students don’t have. It had a huge focus on beauty which is problematic enough in our society. There isn't a need for another girl having a movie tell her that she might be fat in comparison to her friends. Other than that, the universally relatable topics seemed to just be cyber-bullying, name calling and stages of emotions throughout.
However the film has the theme of owning your individuality with underlying static characters who do not change their habits as well as Bianca who attempts to change but realizes that owning her quirkiness is better than faking to be something she’s not to achieve acceptance from any social hierarchy or boy in high school.
The film also features a voice over of Bianca’s inner monologue to display her true feelings and internal issues that we all experience. Bianca even goes to the lengths of unfollowing her friends on social media; that’s millennial friendship ending right there.
The "DUFF" makes an overt effort to be a cool movie with a fast-paced cinematography and emphasis on how people are addicted to their phones. Needless to say that this generation is dependent, but the film goes out of its way to feature technology in almost every scene if not every other scene.
This film has been rumored to be this generation’s “Mean Girls” with quotable lines such as “You go Glen Coco” and “Is butter a carb?” However, it just proved to be a well-produced movie with a template of “Easy A” and “Not Another Teen Movie.” They made an effort, however the film featured more situational humor that wouldn't cut it to be timeless.