The DUFF – Movie Review
The DUFF – PG-13
Release Date: Fri 20 Feb 2015
The DUFF is a comedy about a high school girl named Bianca (Mae Whitman) who finds out from her neighbor and classmate Wesley (Robbie Amell) that she is the “DUFF” in her group of friends: the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Every group of friends has a DUFF. They are the approachable member of the group that act as a gateway to the more desirable friends. For Bianca, it’s her friends Jess and Casey everyone is always asking her about, not herself.
The movie’s advertising and opening act set up the concept of what a DUFF is and how Bianca distances herself from Jess and Casey after finding out that she had unknowingly been their DUFF all along. It’s quickly pointed out that the DUFF need not actually be fat and/or ugly – just more approachable than the others. This tries to explain why a perfectly cute high school girl would by any stretch be called fat or ugly. It’s because she’s not. But “approachable” probably wouldn’t have been as evocative a title for a movie or a reason to break up with friends.
It did take me twenty minutes or so to just relax about the really unpleasant premise of building a story based on calling people fat and ugly just to fit an acronym. The movie is quite a bit of fun after it gets going, with Wesley helping Bianca to become more confident as she works up to approaching a boy she has a crush on. The movie also starts with a series of still-frame introductions to the characters that describes them with hashtags. Once Bianca breaks up with her friends in a funny scene where they yell out what platforms they are un-friending or un-following one another from, the movie thankfully moves away from being yet another movie that relies on reading split screen cell phone conversations.
The overall message from the movie is about finding confidence and retaining your sense of identity. Only Madison (Bella Thorne) is a consistently villainous character, with the rest all having their own moments of insecurity and empathy. There is a cyber-bullying sequence that is extremely tame, but the rest of the revelations are well presented and real. The scene where the three friends break up on social media happens as a conversation. So does Bianca’s realizations about many things – Toby and Wesley included.
If you can deal with the silliness that is the acronym and move into the story itself, you’ll find a tender comedy about people who don’t always know the right thing to say or do but are all the more human for it. That is not something that can be said for most movies with similar plotlines – or even ones that are just flat out satire of this genre.
Amber, Aaron and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car: