Madeleine Davies: I am going to get water, hang tight.
[A few minutes later]
Okkkk. Feelin' hydrated.
Kate Dries: Unlike on Saturday, the day of your 19th birthday, when we saw The DUFF.
Madeleine: Yes, very intense day. But I was glad to celebrate my last year as a teenager ;););) by going to see a teen movie. It felt appropriate.
Kate: Also appropriate: The amount of candy, popcorn and soda consumed during the film. I haven't done that since I was a young girl of 15.
Madeleine: Yes, that was my breakfast.
Kate: So healthy. So teennorm (that's normcore for teens, which is a thing I just made up because I'm on the cutting edge).
Madeleine: Important to add: we also watched this movie on Snapchat.
Kate: Ugh I actually could not have handled that if it were true. Besides, the motto should be that if Modern Family is doing it or something like it, don't do it.
But anyway, some backstory: The DUFF is a teen romantic comedy starring the delightful Mae Whitman, based off a YA book of the same name, which was enough for me to practically pre-order tickets when the trailer came out.
Madeleine: Whitman, playing a teen girl named Bianca who finds out that she's her friend group's "Designated Ugly Fat Friend" (D.U.F.F), was really fucking good in it—good enough to forget what an annoying concept a DUFF is to begin with.
Kate: Yeah, just to pause on that term: it's actually amazing to me how quickly Bianca gets over being called that (though since I think the "getting over it" was done by way of a time-lapse of her hanging out sadly in her pajamas for days, it might have just felt that way). If I heard I was a DUFF, even now, I'm not sure I'd ever leave my bed again.
Madeleine: Kate, I have news. You are my DUFF.
Kate: [Let the record show that I just laughed]
Madeleine: Keep laughing. The laughter is all you have.
Kate: Reminds me that "Shake It Off" could have been a good soundtrack for this film. Seems like a missed opportunity.
Madeleine: So Bianca—and you'll relate to this, Kate—has a sort of love/hate relationship with a dumb, popular jock named... Ryan? Chris? I don't know—some kind of sportsman name and he, drunk at a party, breaks the news to her that she's her social circle's DUFF. Rather than remain that way, she makes a deal with him that she'll tutor him in chemistry (which, GUESS WHAT, they have) and he'll help turn her into a hot girl. It's such an annoying concept, but oddly not that annoying in practice.
Kate: I WISH I could relate to that. The plot of this movie was basically my deepest wish in high school: that some beautiful boy would reveal himself to secretly love my caustic, difficult personality and ditch the incredibly hot girlfriend he was on-again/off-again.
Madeleine: Ha, SAME.
Kate: Of course IRL that does not happen because those hot jocks (for the most part) are just that: hot jocks. But Robbie Amell, who plays Wesley and who I've now stalked a lot on Tumblr, has a real... dare I say... depth?
Definitely more depth than Bianca's two best friends or his girlfriend Madison, played by the very evil posessor of a perfectly symmetrical face, Bella Thorne.
Madeleine: WESLEY, that's it.
Kate: Yeah I had to google that. I had to google all their names. (Madison is such a good evil teen girl name though.)
Madeleine: He's very generically handsome (not the kind of dude my high school self would have gone for...like one year ago ;););)), but he was really charming! I think that's a big part of why the parts of the movie that worked worked as well as they did. Both he and Bianca were written in a way that their very unrealistic relationship seemed real.
Kate: Yeah I would say excluding Allison Janney as Bianca's mom (though why would we do that?) their scenes were the funniest and had the most chemistry.
Madeleine: Allison Janney stole the movie. She's always so good in teen comedies.
Kate: She seems so gung-ho about them. (And is it just me or was naming Bianca Bianca a throwback to Janney's turn in 10 Things I Hate About You? Probably just me.)
Madeleine: Probably just you, but there were other similarities to 10 Things. Bianca drives around in a beater, angrily listening to Joan Jett, which is very Kat Stratford.
This reminds me, The DUFF relied very heavily on certain teen tropes (a makeover, a big dance, mean girls, the breakdown of social cliques, etc.) Did that bother you at all?
Kate: Not as much as it probably should have. I think what I disliked more was how they tried to update those tropes with ~social media~. The main plot hinges around (spoiler) a video of Bianca making a fool of herself while she's being made over at the mall in an attempt to win her dream man "going viral."
The degree and speed at which that video spreads is super realistic, but how they hammered home SNAPCHAT VINE INSTAGRAM etc. etc. was sort of exhausting. Like two teen boys actually say, "Viral." "Viral." to each other.
Madeleine: I loved that. "Should we viral this?" "Yeah, let's viral it."
Kate: Hah YES.
Madeleine: All of the mentions of apps just made me think of how poorly this movie's going to age. Like, in 15 years when Snapchat is long dead, this movie will seem SO 2015.
Kate: Yeah I kept thinking about She's the Man. TIMELESS. (Though, to be fair, is based off a Shakespeare play, as is 10 Things.)
Madeleine: But how do you make a high school movie set in present time and NOT mention the internet?
Kate: I think they could have done that with this movie and just toned it down a little. Like when they introduced all the characters at the beginning, they added descriptors of them with a hashtag in front of what they were into on screen.
It just felt like something An Old would do.
Madeleine: Yeah, that was awfulllllll. "#amazeballs"
I wish we would have asked the real teens sitting behind us what they thought, but they were too rowdy.
Kate: They LOVED it. They loved their phones too, so much that they used them to very brightly shine lights on our heads at the end of the movie and then dropped all their Skittles. Which I found rude.
Madeleine: Yes, a lot of chair kicking.
Another thing that I didn't like about the movie was that it was very lesson heavy. How To Love Yourself as a DUFF and Get a Boyfriend While You're at It.
Kate: Ugh yeahhh. The lessons got really exhausting at the end. Should have taken a tip from Easy A, which did that but kept stuff fun.
Madeleine: Right. The lesson in Easy A seemed both more important to the story and more subtle. The DUFF's moral seemed shoehorned in. It always felt like an interruption from what was actually working (Bianca and Wes being cute and goofy).
Kate: I also felt like Bianca really forgave him quickly at the end. (Super spoiler) He shows up to homecoming with Madison who has zero good qualities, and up until it's clear he's going to ditch Madison for Bianca, Bianca's all like, "Hope you're happy with Madison."
Madeleine: And yet when the movie was over, I felt mostly pleased. You and I both revealed that we often relate more heavily to teen movies than we do to adult movies and I think that brought us closer.
Kate: Oh god I felt so close to you. I also felt none of the disappointment that adult films usually bring. Just mostly calm satisfaction.
Life has more unnecessary dramatics as a teen but it is somehow simpler.
Madeleine: There's a part where Wes is explaining to Bianca how to tell if a date is going well because—TWIST--at the beginning, Wes is not the one Bianca wants. I was, like, taking notes. Really taking his advice to heart.
Kate: Wait what did he say again...something about eye-contact and body language?
Madeleine: It was all very obvious stuff like "Is he saying things to impress you?" "Is he angling his body towards you?" All totally basic and yet my mind was blown. A true birthday miracle.
Kate: The magic of a teen movie is leaving the theater truly believing your life would be better if you just followed its ways.
Madeleine: Maybe that's why we love them. They're so optimistic. "HEY, FUNNY WEIRDO! YOU TOO CAN GET THE GUY. Yes, maybe I can. Maybe I can.
Kate: Yeah also we're teens so obviously we love them.
Madeleine: Just two 19-year-olds, havin' a great time.
The DUFF is in theaters now.
Images via Lionsgate