The Duff, film review: Likeable teen movie deals with cyber-bullying, sex, and teen narcissism

(12A) Ari Sandel, 101 mins Starring: Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

This is a likeable and smartly written teen movie that still seems very fresh in spite of rehashing characters and situations familiar from countless other high-school comedies.

A "Duff" is a "designated ugly fat friend". Mae Whitman plays Bianca, a smart, contented but slightly geeky senior-year student whose self-confidence and trust in her friends is shattered when her neighbour Wesley (Robbie Amell) tells her that she is a Duff. In essence, this is a variation on The Ugly Duckling and has obvious overlaps with such other teen movies as She's All That and even Grease.

The film, though, deals in perceptive fashion with such matters as cyber-bullying, school kids' fascination with, and terror of, sex, anxieties about body image and teen narcissism. It is also performed with plenty of spark by Whitman and Amell.