One of my favorite Young Adult books hits the big screen this weekend. I read The DUFF late last year; author Kody Keplinger writes a funny and sweet romantic comedy with several genuine messages. One of the main reasons I love it is because the book’s sex positive message that was weaved throughout it, which is not something you see all that often in YA. If you have read the book and then watched the trailer, it’s quite obvious that the movie producers have made some big changes, the biggest being in how Bianca and Wesley’s relationship develops.
It concerned me at first because the way they get together and eventually form a relationship is so different than what’s been done before in YA. However, I decided to go into the movie with an open mind, since the story’s main message about loving and embracing the person you are is apparent. While promoting good self-esteem isn’t a new concept to teen movies, it’s not a bad one to center a cute, if typical, teen comedy around. The DUFF may have some snappy, modern dialogue that young people will get a kick out of, but it’s the film’s incredibly charming leads who make it entertaining.
The DUFF, meaning Designated Ugly Fat Friend (harsh, I know), follows Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman), a sarcastic, smart and funny high school student with a loyal pair of friends and a crush on the school’s indie crooner, Tobey. Bianca’s friends convince her to attend a party with the promise that Tobey will be there. Not much of a party-goer, Bianca concedes and bumps into Wesley Rush (The Flash’s Robbie Amell), the school’s most popular guy and manwhore (according to Bianca). Wesley asks Bianca about her friends, clearly interested in them. Bianca refuses to help him hook-up with her friends, and Wesley says she’s supposed to as her friend’s DUFF. Appalled, she throws her drink in Wesley’s face and leaves.
As much as anyone would like to forget being called a DUFF, it nags at Bianca, who usually is the type of person who doesn’t care what others think. With the help of Wesley, Bianca makes a deal to change and not be a DUFF anymore.
“DUFF” is something everyone can relate to; there hasn’t been a time in our lives when we don’t compare ourselves to our friends and peers, even if it’s just a little. Many of us have experienced bullying of some kind as well. Bianca becomes a victim of a cyber-bullying when a mean girl (played by Bella Thorne) uploads a video of her being silly and trying on clothes when Wesley was helping her out with a makeover. As funny as the rest of the movie can be, it’s a moment like that which really grounds it. It took what was a delightful and funny dressing room scene and made it shameful for Bianca. That’s how bullying works, and the movie obviously did a good job of bringing that message across.
Eventually, The DUFF hits the inevitable point where Bianca and Wesley start to get feelings for each other. (You know it’s going to happen, that’s hardly a spoiler.) Despite how predictable their romance is, Whitman and Amell have such great chemistry that I didn’t care how cliché it is. You just want them to share the screen as much as possible because they’re adorable. The supporting cast, which includes Allison Janney and Ken Jeong, also add to the fun.
Movies like The DUFF are becoming a rare breed. When most movies about teens have them in fighting in dystopias or falling in love with supernatural creatures, it’s nice to see something a little more John-Hughes-esque make its way to theaters. With a positive message and charming performances, The DUFF is much more than it looks.
The DUFF arrives in theaters on February 20th.