HOLLYWOOD—When was the last time that you can recall seeing a film about high school that was actually entertaining? Yeah, it’s been awhile, the high school cliché movies of the 90s, all but disappeared in the early 2000s, so imagine my surprise when “The Duff” proved to a bit more entertaining than I suspected.
The film stars Mae Whittman as Bianca Piper, a quirky high school student who is on cloud nine for her senior year. She’s not super popular, but she happens to be friends with two very popular ladies Jess (Skyler Samuels) and Casey (Bianca A. Santos). Now I’ll admit, after seeing this movie, there are certain dynamics that took me back to high school, so much to the point that you could almost pinpoint students who acted as ‘duffs’ for their popular friends.
The actual terminology of a DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) is indeed harsh, but doesn’t necessarily mean all duffs are fat; just that oddball in the group whose social ranking isn’t as high as the others.
The bulk of the narrative surround Bianca discovering that she is the duff to her best friends and it makes her question everything about herself. It’s like that moment the mean girl or your mortal enemy says something wicked about you and it just opens your eyes in a way that you never expected. Trust me we’ve all encountered this at one point or another in our lives, if not in high school, than perhaps in college or the real world.
The dynamics change for Bianca who has a bit of a soft spot in her heart for her former friend and neighbor Wes (Robbie Amell). It is indeed amazing how those friends that we grow up with, we sometimes drift away from only to find ourselves reunited in the weirdest way. Wes is the high school jock, who is also dating the mean girl Madison (Bella Thorne). I will admit Throne does indeed sink her teeth in the mean girl role without being overly nasty about it.
The message in the movie is quite triumphant, social hierarchy is apart of our lives, but we don’t have to abandon who we are to achieve it. What does it mean to be popular? I mean ask that question. Does that mean everyone knows your name, have you achieved a level of notoriety that others hasn’t. What makes you unique compared to others?
Popularity and identity is what you choose to make it, which Bianca learns over a period of time as Wes helps her re-discover herself. At the same time, Wes learns a few things about himself also, the fact that he has a burning torch for his former BFF. While the movie might indeed be all about the students, the supporting cast of players including Allison Janney, Ken Jeong and Romany Malco deliver some unexpected laughs for the moviegoers as well. These comedic geniuses provide that moment of laughter that is least expected which sometimes lightens the mood.
I mean high school wasn’t the greatest for many of us and the movie taps into that emotional place at times. I had a ton of fun watching “The Duff” which highlights a bit more about high school than we always see.