The Duff Review
The Duff is a 2015 teen comedy film directed by Ari Sandel and starring Robbie Amell and the wonderful Mae Whitman. It is one of the funniest films in a while and a guilty pleasure by all means.
It tells the story of Bianca, a teenager who learns that she is the DUFF of her group which is an acronym of designated ugly fat friend meaning that she is the least popular and most accessible person of the group. She then asks the help from her childhood friend, the handsome Wes to help her change. The main reason why this story hurts the whole film is that it is not only incredibly clichéd but also devastatingly predictable and tired. I literally knew every little thing that would happen in this movie making all that trip somewhat pointless. The other main problem that is as important as the typical story is of course the message in the end. It is very vague and ambiguous in that it preaches one thing but ends with a completely different thing. It teaches us how people should not label themselves and should be comfortable in their own skin and then is ends with Bianca getting a handsome boyfriend while coming on a prom in a make-over edition. It is a very troublesome approach with the message that does not pay off and has been typical of Hollywood for decades and decades. I wish someday we would have a film that shows it is okay to be less handsome and single and that would end in such a way.
But why did I like this film when the story and message are done so poorly? Well, the answer is twofold. First there is the acting which is absolutely phenomenal across the board with Robbie Amell being very likable and professional in his role. But he pales in comparison to Mae Whitman who is simply lovable in the role of an interesting and sympathetic protagonist. She gives a powerhouse performance here that should have gotten her way more attention and even some accolades. Yes, she is that good. And she did with this stale material what she could have done and she did it perfectly and to the greatest extent possible. She is not only extremely likable but also very original in her execution. There are endless interesting and funny facial expressions she incorporated into some great sequences leading to her character being the most hilarious part of the film bringing the most humor for sure. She is amazing and quite frankly a revelation. I am now very excited to see more of her in the future.
The next aspect that helped the movie are of course the characters and the humor. The characters are all incredibly sympathetic and they are all stupendously well developed. But the humor is fantastic with a lot of simply hilarious sequences and excellent lines. They absolutely lift this weak script and make the film fun to watch and a great recommendation for anyone. Of all the hilarious scenes, I found the one with Bianca arguing with her friends and erasing her from the friends list on the social networks as the finest one and probably the biggest reason why this movie could become classic in the future. It perfectly captures today’s society obsessed with internet and the teenagers’ obsession with social networks and making fun of everybody on the internet. The cyber bullying is a great and important theme introduced in The Duff and I only wish the whole film could have been that smart, sophisticated and relevant.
The direction is solid, the acting is top-notch but the dialogue is superb from start to finish and the chemistry between the leads is evident. It is one reason apart from acting why they made the story tolerable because you can feel the chemistry between them and their evident powerhouse performances driving it all. And the pacing is mostly good as is the soundtrack. All of the technical aspects are very good making the movie feel very polished and professional.