The Movie Date is a weekly feature where we discuss movies that may appeal to the YA audience. Andrew is The Reading Date’s resident movie critic and this week he discusses The DUFF, based on the book by Kody Keplinger, and directed by Ari Sandel.
I read The DUFF almost five years ago and didn’t get the chance to re-read before seeing the film. (Here’s my book review) As memory serves, some big changes were made from the book- but overall I thought it was a really successful adaptation and in keeping with the spirit of the source material. I thought the adaptation was funny, smart, relatable, and had a great message. The audience was really digging it too. I kind of want to re-read the book now actually!
Here’s what Andrew thought:
Let’s get this out of the way first. DUFF stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend, an everyday gal who hangs out with slightly more glamorous peers. Not only does a DUFF make her friends look prettier, she’s there to tell interested males whether or not the ladies are available. In practice (we’re told) a DUFF need not be ugly or fat at all, though she may appear that way compared to her lovely companions.
Bianca (Mae Whitman) has just started senior year, hanging out as usual with her two gal pals, yoga-buff Jess and tough hacker Casey. All is well until Bianca runs into her annoying next-door neighbor and childhood friend Wesley, now a candid and impulsive jock. He bluntly informs Bianca of her DUFF status, which she’s eager to shed. Bianca quickly parts ways with Jess and Casey in a hilarious face-to-face social-media breakup full of un-friending, un-following, and “pity RT’s.” Bianca and Wesley soon come to a deal: she’ll help him avoid failing chemistry if he’ll teach her how to shine on her own. Her romantic target is sensitive guitarist type Toby. But when she gets him alone, will Toby still be the guy Bianca wants?
As a film, The DUFF doesn’t diverge sharply from the female high-school outsider tradition that includes Pretty in Pink, She’s All That, the Lohan duology Mean Girls and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and Easy A. Which is fine; the Cinderella arc and “be yourself” message are welcome in theaters any time. What gives this film an extra dose of sweetness is the way each of the characters grows out of the narrow stereotypes they’re usually bound by. Jess and Casey are both pretty and intelligent, crass jock Wesley has family problems and a big heart, and Toby’s sincere in spite of his shallow intentions. Only Bianca’s nemesis, bitchy Madison (Bella Thorne, who I kept calling “teenage Jessica Chastain” in my head), never quite escapes her selfish constraints. Someone’s gotta be the bad guy.
For me the big news here, though, was the fantastic lead performance by Mae Whitman, alternately cocky and vulnerable, sweet and sour. Though in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World and Perks of Being a Wallflower she played slightly loopy “other girls,” romantic obstacles for the film’s heroes, on Parenthood she played a more down-to-earth character like the one here. So it was great to see her in the spotlight at last; as a lead actress she has a really earnest quality that makes her easy to identify with. I look forward to more and bigger roles for talented Whitman, who’s more than ready for prime time. And, for the record, neither ugly nor fat.
The DUFF is now playing in theaters. This film is Rated PG-13 and runs 110 minutes.
Have you seen the movie yet? We’d love to know your opinion!
Oh, and if you haven’t read The DUFF yet- the ebook is on sale for $2.99.