by Kelsey Barritt, Writing Intern
When Mean Girls meets the year 2015, The DUFF is born. This new movie, directed by Ari Sandel hits every high school stereotype, and updates them with hashtags and selfies. Although predictable, The DUFF fully entertains audiences with its playful attitude toward the dramatics of high school.
The movie showcases Bianca Piper (Mae Whitman), a high school senior who fashions a great sense of sarcasm, but not much of a fashion sense. Typically sporting overalls through the halls, she looks shabby and plain next to her two popular, model-esque best friends. She is often the victim of backhanded compliments and is unnoticed by all the brats with their noses in the air. This lands her the label of DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend). Without even realizing it, a DUFF’s duties are to make their friends look better and act as a buffer between their good-looking peers and anyone else. Being unaware of this for a long time, ignorance was bliss. Then, her world came crashing down in the form of her childhood friend Wesley (Robbie Amell). Wesley, an unfiltered mouth and a beautiful body, brings this to Bianca’s attention. From then on, Bianca picks up on everything she didn't before; she notices people asking about her friends and not her. She begins to feel invisible.
Tired of this disgusting acronym consuming her mind, Bianca approaches Wesley for anti-DUFF training. He agrees in exchange for chemistry notes. At this point, audiences may be experiencing deja vu from every teen movie ever. Still, this movie does it in a very fresh and endearing way. Wesley and Bianca bond through 1980’s style dressing room scenes, play-by-play date predictions and even some real, deep conversations. Together, they work past a stereotype, turn an ugly duckling into a confident woman, and even get a little smarter. Of course, the road to this transition was not a smooth one. When the ever so significant high school hierarchy becomes threatened, battles are inevitable. Several sabotages humiliate the transitioning DUFF, but she refuses to quit, much like the hooks on her overalls.
Through it all comes a unique lesson about self-confidence. Sure, Bianca benefits from a few tips about fashion and social norms. But she also discovers the real value in her corky, sharp self. Everyone is somebody’s DUFF, and the sooner everyone realizes that, the better. The DUFF recognizes the existence of high school stereotypes and realizes they won’t change. So instead of teaching some lesson about being nice to each other, it mocks the stress it causes. The DUFF provides the much more useful lesson that the emphasis on high school status is just plain dumb. Nobody really cares. And those delusional enough to think that high school popularity means something are the real insignificant ones.
The film mocks high school stereotypes while falling into a few movie stereotypes. Many chunks of the movie appear unoriginal, but add fun twists. A couple of annoying moments occur, like a very dramatic statement--deleting someone from Snapchat. But all in all, The DUFF offers more substance than what would be expected from a teen comedy. Whitman nails her part as a casual quick wit. Amell thrives as an outwardly superficial, inwardly sincere and caring person. Small parts of school employees add goofy one-liners and even quick peaks at reality. Bianca’s mom (Allison Janney) brings a dry, unemotional viewpoint to the most sensitive moments of a teen’s life. The unique cast, as a whole, only adds to the greatness that is The DUFF. Basically, if a few recycled teen movie moments aren't a problem, The DUFF delivers a great deal of fun and a somewhat fresh outlook on labels. It encourages the dorks, goofballs, and victims of an everlasting awkward phase to keep on rolling through life with their funky attitudes. It shows that a world filled with snotty popular kids is a world without any fun.