Chaos Attraction

The DUFF: A Movie Review

2015-02-21, 11:00 p.m.

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The DUFF: A Movie Review

I read The DUFF a few years ago and loved it. Thought it was great. So when I heard there was a movie, I was looking forward to it. And I did enjoy it. In some respects it's a different animal--mostly in that it's rather obsessed with teenage use of technology and having Bianca do a bunch of silly crap on camera-- but other than that, it actually manages to keep the overall message of the book, and keeps the main characters of Bianca, Jess, Casey, and Wesley still pretty awesome. So, that's pretty good. I'd give it a B, maybe B+.

The movie plot: Bianca is a shlubby dresser and short, but smart. Her best friends (and coworkers on the school newspaper) are sweet, nice, kinda hippie fashion designer Jess and Casey, a hacker/soccer star. Both Jess and Casey are Teh Hotness. Bianca hasn't really given a shit about this until her jock sport stud manwhore neighbor, Wesley, points out to her that she's the Duff: doesn't she get asked about Jess and Casey a lot? Don't people say hi to them n the halls and not her? This gives Bianca the (false) idea that maybe Jess and Casey only hang out with her to make themselves look good, causing her to noisily break up with them all in front of their faces by deleting them from all social media.

I have to derail for a bit to say that the TOTAL hype of every fucking social media app/program out there in this movie, dropping every single brand name out there...you know what, someday this shit is going to look as dated as AOL references in You've Got Mail. This movie is sadly gonna scream "2015!!!!!" in oh....probably 2016/2017. I realize it's hard to talk about Teens These Days without it, especially when you are going to throw in a cyberbullying plot, but honestly, that is going to come off as sooooooo dated in a few years. Ditto the credits, which literally mention every single actor's Twitter handle. Can't wait for the teens of 2020, 2025, etc. to LOL at all of that. Yes, I am biased on hating social media, but still, the more people drop the names of products in fictional works, the lamer it looks a few years later when everyone has moved on from Nokia and Blackberry and Palm PDA's. Anyway....that was one of my least favorite aspects of the movie, and here come the rest to talk about!

Bianca decides that since Wesley, at least, has been brutally honest with her about the Duff thing (she literally goes around the school seeing everyone who's Duffy), she can enlist him in helping her to be less Duff-like. Oh yeah, and also how she can woo Toby Tucker, her lifelong crush. (In the book, Toby's another smart kid, in the movie he's a guitar player with frequently tossed hair.) In exchange, she'll tutor him in "science." This last bit is also pretty lulz-y since (a) it's pretty clear it's a chemistry class so I don't know why they're calling it a generic science. I haven't laughed so much since I watched an episode of Parenthood that supposedly took place at my college and they were all, "Let's go look at the science building!" They're all specific on sciences! and (b) Bianca literally never tutors him once. She throws him her chemistry notebook and tells him to help himself and he actually studies alone and starts getting B's. I realize that listening to chemistry talk is probably dull, but hey, tutoring sessions would have given them plenty of flirting opportunities.

But anyway, Wes does a great job of tutoring Bianca on the social aspects of life, such as (no joke) taking her out to get a decent bra. He watches a lot of Project Runway and is not ashamed! Wesley then has Bianca try on various different sets of clothes to see what works with her personality and she totally goofs off while doing this, including ah...making out with and manhandling a mannequin while calling him Toby and declaring her love for him. Wesley is recording this as "game film" but doesn't post it online-- but his ex-girlfriend Madison's Duff/lackey girl sees the whole thing from behind them and films it and of course it goes online and goes viral and Toby sees it and Bianca is publicly shamed. (Though Jess makes sure that Casey the hacker deletes the video after they find out about it. Would that all videos could be removed from YouTube THAT easily.) The principal is so put off by this shit that he calls an end to cyberbullying and has a brief stint of confiscating all cellphones during the school day, which I guess doesn't last too long after he gets annoyed at listening to the ringing. Of course, this does not stop more awful videos of Bianca (asking random guys out as per Wesley's instructions) making it online courtesy of Madison and her lackey. Wesley convinces Bianca to just own it and go up to Toby and say that she likes him, wanna go out? And it works! Well, it works until Toby turns out to also be using Bianca as the Duff to get to her friends. Ugh.

Anyway, after that Bianca makes up with her friends and explains why she was flipping out out of nowhere, and they all agree to go to Homecoming together, and Bianca gets a new dress and realizes that eh, she's fine with being a Duff, she's good on her own. And she has a lovely tell-off speech to Madison when Madison starts bitching that she'll post more videos of Bianca, which worked well with the themes of the book. Madison wins homecoming queen, but Wesley blows off king duties to make out with Bianca instead, and they go to nearby colleges, and happy ending.

Here's some awesome things about the movie:

(a) This is a Bechdel-passing movie. It's pretty clear that Jess and Casey may be hot, but they are also decent girls (just like the book), and eventually they and Bianca make up and go to homecoming alone--Jess and Casey even dump their dates for it. And Jess actually makes Bianca a dress that works for her style--a poofy black skirt on the bottom and a lovely fitted bodice MADE OUT OF BIANCA'S PLAID SHIRT on the top. It's very adorable and her.

(b) One interesting thing of this movie is that there really isn't all THAT much of a Dramatic Makeover like you'd expect. Bianca tries on a lot of weird clothes that are totally wrong for her in the supposed Makeover Scene, and she never does buy any of them. Wesley buys her a rather plain black dress she was eyeing in the store (which in all honesty, is doing nothing for her and even Wesley doesn't think it's quite right when he sees her in it) for the inevitable Dress Up Date Scene, but it's very meh. It's not till the climax of the movie, in which Bianca has the custom dress, where she finally finds a look that works for her and is less overalls and terrifying pajama pants (look, they were ones I liked, but even I wouldn't wear them out in public like that with huge socks) and giant boots. She dresses up a bit at the end, but it looks natural on her.

(c) The casting in this is totally great. Robbie Amell is a total fit for the part (okay, the teens look a little old, but what do you expect) personality and charmwise, Mae Whitman is a total fit for the part, her best friends are great fits for their parts. And there are plenty of scenes of Bianca and Wes hanging out and having a good time and bonding, which I thought was great.

As for changes between the book and the movie: I've already mentioned not being super thrilled with the slapsticky crap and social media aspects, but I did think it was a great move to have Bianca and Wes as neighbors who grew up naked in the bath together. Bianca's dad is written out of the movie (he's a big part of the book but a disturbing downer, so I can see why they cut that out of the comedy), but her mom is in it more as a motivational speaker and Allison Janney appears to be having a good time with that. Wes's parental situation is barely mentioned in the movie compared to the book, but what little we hear about it (his parents are screamers) gives you enough to figure out why he wants the hell out of the house with a scholarship. And while Bianca and Wes's relationship is kinda drastically different from the book in some respect--they kind of start out as fuck-enemies and there's a lot of boinking in the book that they can't do in a movie-- the hanging out stuff is still pretty fun, even if I kind of missed Wes's declaration of love for Bianca and her not-so-Duffy-ness. Anyway, as a teen movie, it's fun. I'm not going to say it totally blew my mind the way that say, Easy A did--it more reminded me of seeing Fifty First Dates. Fifty First Dates has a lot of great moments and the leads work great together and the movie actually makes a terrible premise work, but you still have to put up with watching the ugly animal trainer lady and Rob Schneider's stupid schtick at times. Ah well. Still pretty good.


In other news in life: I briefly attended a steampunk emporium today and managed to leave without buying anything, so good for me on that one. And I got my new Internet installed--much to my delight, the new modem also works as a router and my wireless works again, so I can use my dang laptop all over the house if I like unplugged!!!! The guy who did it was totally nice and we talked about crafts and jobs and the natures of jobs changing. And he got finished in enough time for me to hit the movie, obviously.

And....after not only months, but YEARS of angsting about apartment moving.... I finally came to a decision. I really do have too much stuff to move, period, and I don't want to get rid of enough of it. (Some stuff, yes, and my craft room is filling up with books I want to get rid of, but let's face it, Mom will give me huge amounts of drama if I get rid of any of the precious furniture. To this DAY she is begging to buy me more furniture and I am begging her not to.) And god knows it might take me a long-ass time to try to get rid of anything. Melinda's advice on the situation was to renew my lease and take months to clean out stuff-which I might still try to do but don't really hold out much hope for. But...the conclusion I came to while driving home today was really, I just want more money. And the idea of moving would be to theoretically give me more money....but it's still gonna cost to actually move anything.

So really, I should just keep the apartment as is and just look at other ways to make more money instead. And I'll admit that is the idea that gave me a sense of peace instead of total fucking panic and agitation at trying to choose between options I can't stand. I'm going to give myself 24 hours to think about it before I officially commit (which I have to do Monday/Tuesday), but right now I'm thinking I'll go with that.

I continue to mostly be in a bizarrely optimistic mood. I was in a crappy mood on Friday and on Valentine's night for various reasons, but after that it wore off. I've had three tapping sessions this week due to classes overlapping--dedicated at least some of that to focusing on the living situation. The only super downer moment I had this week was Friday morning when I woke up at 5:30 a.m. freaking about the apartment situation again--and really, what good does that ever do to freak out about shit in the wee small hours of a workday morning when you can't think clearly anyway? And much to my surprise, that whopping depression mood ended up wearing off after a few hours. I got good news at work--my public service hours are being cut in half so I'll only have to do that once a week. And I got out of having to do my usual Friday shift because I did a coworker's last week and she elected to make up my time then. I also--and yeah, this is crazy-- have been looking around for some kind of placebo to take. Why? Because weirdly enough, doing that sometimes seems to work even if you know it's a sugar pill. Again, this is kind of one of those "crazy things I'd rather do than try depression meds" (I know, I know). But straight up sugar pills aren't exactly something I've been able to find at the grocery, drugstore, or hippie store. So....what the heck else can I take? Well, in the hippie grocery I found something called Bach Rescue Remedy Pastilles. Whatever the heck Rescue Remedy is, I thought that sounded like a good fit for something placebo-ish. So I took one at work. And anyway, I don't know if it was getting off the hook for public service or the happy pastille or what, but I got out of my fucking asstastic mood within the next hour and have pretty much been fine since then.

GO FIGURE. This is totally weird for me, you guys. You have no idea how weird. I mean, like, I last went through an inexplicable cheerful stage a few years ago for a couple of weeks, and before that was years ago when I was getting high off taking 5-HTP--too bad that stuff stopped working on me after a few weeks and never had any effect on me again even after taking drug vacations. I keep wondering how long it's going to last and when I'm going to crash back to earth and become me again. And if I sign off on this irrevocably, will I wake up a few days later thinking WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?!? I am seriously wondering if my making this apartment decision while uh....relatively high, I guess (hah, like I know from high when I don't take drugs), is a good idea or not. Normally I am all about making decisions from a place of practicality/brutal realism. And while trying to figure this out, I have been thinking stuff along the lines of "I'm only going to get poorer so I should plan my life according to that and stop doing fun things and scale down." Which is depressing as shit.

So I went so far as to ask Mom which one should be doing: making decisions from a place of optimism (I can totally find some kind of side job! Or jobs! Or sell some shit or something!) or realism? She originally said well, realism probably....but later on was like, well, I make decisions while being optimistic, I think it's fine! Whether it is or not, I don't know....I really wish I could talk to my shrink before I have to be official on this, but she's not back till Tuesday.


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