DUFF stands for Designated Ugly Fat Friend.
I think I liked where this movie was trying to go, but it definitely was not a John Hughes movie. In fact, at times it felt like a bad Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles mash up.
The not-so-popular girls will love the idea of the Robbie Amell's of their school falling in love with them and in this movie, like Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink, that happens. Kids impacted by labels love the idea of a movie about not having labels and kids who break stereotypes by being multi-label, like in The Breakfast Club. The Duff, however, simply falls short.
While the movie has a "happy ending" It doesn't break labels, it defines them. At one point the movie tries to highlight individuality, but all I saw was a sloppy socially awkward teenager. I didn't notice any individuality of the main character. Aside from the fact that she came from a divorced home and raised her hand in class -we didn't know anything substantive about her. She WAS simply a DUFF and she didn't do anything about it until someone called her ugly and fat and even then she didn't make a real effort at self improvement.
(Don't even get me started on the cyber bullying in this movie and how it was glossed over- that would be another blog or two in and of itself.)
Am I saying that someone who doesn't care about fashion or hair and make-up suddenly get a extreme makeover just to fit in? NO! But the main character of this movie DID care about being a DUFF and wanted to be just as important and beautiful and socially captivating as the other females in her world.
Even though this movie had some great laugh out loud moments with actor Ken Jeong, and Robbie Amell is really a pleasure to look at, there was real disappointment in the contradictions and messages in this movie. This movie had me in a confusing head-spin.
As an adult and mom to an 11 year old, I don't want her to think that it's OK not being the best person she can be. Individuality is important and celebrated, but she should shower and brush her hair. Cyber-bullying others is never OK and life is about stages and phases and growth and successes too. It's OK to be an individual but it's OK to fit in too. One does not have to be exclusive of the other. And whatever labels we wear or don't wear, WE define them for ourselves and we can be valued and important in our own circles.
As that 11 year old who watched Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink and later The Breakfast Club...I learned about the different cliques and that within each group there were people who went thru similar things that I did. We were much more similar than we were different. I wrote hand-written letters and dreamed about "Jake Ryan". I learned how to make and craft things and listened to indie and alternative music and as I grew up I became a little bit like all of those characters in one form or another.
The lesson in this movie is "...at some point in our lives, everyone is someone else's DUFF."