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  DUFF, The Pyg-female-ion
Year: 2015
Director: Ari Sandel
Stars: Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, Bella Thorne, Bianca A. Santos, Skyler Samuels, Romany Malco, Nick Eversman, Chris Wylde, Ken Jeong, Allison Janney, Rebecca Weil, Seth Meriwether, Erick Chavarria, Brian Dewar McNamara, Benjamin Davis, RJ Shearer
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Bianca (Mae Whitman) is in her senior year of high school and considers herself a pretty good judge of character, but what she didn’t realise was that people have been judging her likewise. She is best friends with Casey (Bianca A. Santos) and Jess (Skyler Samuels) and thinks they’re just about of equal importance in the school’s hierarchy, but the fact remains boys are far more interested in them than they are in her, not that it bothers her, but she has never been on a date and hasn’t stopped to ponder why that might be. It is then her nemesis enters the picture, the bitchy Madison (Bella Thorne) who has recently broken up with jock Wesley (Robbie Amell) – and he may be the one who, in a roundabout way, proves Bianca’s saviour.

If you’re the sort of person who obsesses over movie stars’ ages and how they relate to the roles they take, then you would have a field day with The DUFF, for it portrayed two seventeen-year-olds in its main plot who were played by two twenty-six-year-olds, and for a certain section of the audience that was a step too far. After all, in what other genre than the teen movie is authenticity so strictly adhered to, they were well known for their documentary realism and many felt this production was letting the side down. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was that title, an acronym that stood for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend” and the howls of outrage when it was noticed Mae Whitman was neither fat nor ugly reverberated around the studios of Hollywood and beyond.

You had to assume she was a friend to somebody, so at least they got that bit right, but if you took the time to watch the film it would be clearer, a DUFF (a term invented by author Kody Keplinger, whose book this was loosely adapted from) didn’t have to be ugly or fat, though they did have to be a friend. She (or he) was the one who was approachable enough to ask to get to know their more attractive pals, and when Wesley points this out to Bianca in the spirit of banter she is horrified, though she still has to look up the word on the internet to confirm. The more she dwells on it, the more she recognises in her heart to be true, leading her to tell Jess and Casey where to go in no uncertain terms.

Not that they had done anything wrong, and are absolutely baffled when she sends them packing, but this means Bianca doesn’t have a friend to speak of anymore. Or does she? On inquiring about her status to Wesley, he decides to take her under his wing like any number of lost and hopeless romantic characters have been before, only here it’s the twist that it’s a boy managing a girl. As a result, he directs her to ditch the horror movie geek chic and dress up at a department store by trying on various girly clothes and acting like she just don’t care, which she proceeds to do (presumably the other shoppers were conveniently out of earshot at this point). Alas, jealous Madison has despatched a minion to keep tabs on Wesley and captures the entire display on her cameraphone, then uploads it to the internet.

Thus the twenty-first equivalent of that hoary old plotline “You went out with me for a bet? How dare you?” swiftly became “You uploaded embarrassing footage of me to the internet? How dare you!” and The DUFF was very social media savvy even if it wasn’t rip-roaringly funny. Bianca has a crush on Toby (Nick Eversman, an alarming – brace yourselves – twenty-eight at time of filming) which she confessed in the clip, so Wesley decides to assist in helping her win his affection, he now knows she’s interested, so what have they got to lose. And this was what was positive about the film, informing its audience that sure, you may have a bad time of it socially when it seems the world is laughing at you, but that needn’t mean it will last forever and you can get through it to become a more interesting person. Whitman, whatever age she was, had valuable experience in comedy and placed that to the fore, wringing a few laughs (though more often wry smiles) from amiable but not exactly stellar material, and proving she could carry a movie with ease. It wrapped itself up predictably, but meant well. Music by Dominic Lewis.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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