The Duff – Movie Review by Emily Elphinstone
Director: Ari Sandel
Writers: Josh A. Cagan (screenplay), Kody Keplinger (novel)
Stars: Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell
We’ve watched all the heavyweight Oscar hopefuls, and now it’s time for the other type of cinematic treat: films that are just darn good fun. ‘The DUFF’ is certainly one of the latter.
Following in the great tradition of American Teen Comedies, ‘The DUFF’ follows high school senior Bianca as she comes to terms with the terrifying realisation that she is the ‘Designated Ugly Fat Friend’: The less attractive member of her circle, who serves as an unwitting gatekeeper to her statuesque and more fashion conscious friends Jess (Skyler Samuels) and Casey (Bianca Santos). This new found awareness leads Bianca on an attempt to transform her life; recruiting the unlikely help of super-jock Wes (Robbie Amell) in return for chemistry tuition.
At first sight, ‘The DUFF’ sounds dangerously like yet another generic re-hashing of old ideas, complete with the inevitable floppy haired heartthrob, and socially awkward lead; but luckily this is refreshed with a brilliant performance by “Arrested Development’s” Mae Whitman as Bianca, and a stunning supporting cast including Allison Janney and Ken Jeong.
There is also great comment made on the proliferation of modern technology: Super-bitch Madison (Bella Thorne) has minions recording her every move ‘because she’s the next reality TV star’, and the break up of a friendship is now a digital battlefield of unfriending and unfollowing. With much of daily life happening online, and school halls filled with people looking down at their phones, it’s not surprising that the teachers are positively gleeful when asked to confiscate mobile phones!
There are unfortunate moments when the ‘feel good’ message of the film is so heavy handed that it detracts from the entertainment value, and you won’t get any shocking twists that didn’t see coming; but ‘The DUFF’ delivers exactly what it promises in true ‘guilty pleasure’ style: It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cringe, and it will deliver the inevitable happy ending that you secretly hope for.