Opening July 9, 2015
Directed by: Ari Sandel
Writing credits: Josh A. Cagan
Principle actors: Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne, Robbie Arnell
Bianca is academically successful in Malloy High School and works for the school newspaper. She hangs out with her good friends Casey and Jess, and secretly dreams of a date with Toby. All is perfectly normal until Wesley (good-looking jock and ex-boyfriend of school bitch, Madison) tells her that she is a DUFF, which, he explains, means designated, ugly, fat friend. Supposedly every high school clique has a “duff.” This is the approachable person one goes to for inside information about the more popular members of the group. Bianca is devastated and looks at her supposedly two best friends with new eyes. Wesley thinks there is hope for her and agrees to help her rise from duff status to new popularity if she agrees to help him pass math class. He takes her shopping for new clothes. He assigns her the task of approaching 15 strange boys without fear. They gradually become close friends, meet for private discussions in the woods, and fend off Madison, who jealously suspects something between the two, although she is no longer in the picture. Madison’s own “duff’” Caitlyn (Rebecca Weil) secretly takes photos of Bianca in the department store dressing room and publishes them on Facebook for the whole school to watch – true internet mobbing.
As the story unfolds there is a familiar whiff of Romeo and Juliet and “my baby belongs to me” which awaken nostalgic memories of impossible loves and outsiders who rise to the challenge. The Asian teacher Mr. Arthur (Ken Jeong) shares his own teenager traumas in the days before the term “duff” even existed. Bianca’s mother Dottie (Allison Janney) attempts to help, but has her own problems of a working, single mom. Naturally there is a Homecoming Dance. Naturally, there is a happy ending with a moral to the story and all teenagers, especially girls, will enjoy it. At least the teenaged girls in my showing were happy with the film, which was filmed in the U.S. (Austin, Texas and Alanta, Georgia) where nobody goes anywhere except by car. Naturally, Mae Whitman, who plays Bianca, is neither fat nor ugly – just a bit shorter than the wannabe fashion models who swarm down the school hallways. Based on the novel by Kody Keplinger. ( )