I don't really like to write bad reviews. I won't hesitate to do it, because I don't think it's beneficial to anyone to be dishonest, especially when you are talking about something that costs money, but I also don't like to do it. I especially hate writing bad reviews of movies, books, etc. because they're so much more subjective than a product. Although something like a lamp still does depend on the reviewer, it basically lights things or it doesn't. A movie, however, involves lots of work and effort and the final result will be different based on each viewer.
When I saw reviews for The Duff and saw that they were overall very positive, especially that they were saying it was a feminist teen movie that does away with all the stereotypes present in these kinds of movies, I was excited. I admit that I LOVE teen movies. Some are better than others, but I actually find that many of them are already pretty good at sending positive messages. It's tough to be realistic while also being positive, but I think a lot do that. The Duff is absolutely not one of them.
The premise here is we have a girl who is close friends with two other girls, both of whom are more attractive than her. She doesn't really notice this until her neighbor, a guy she used to be friendly with but is now a jerk, tells her that she's their DUFF (designated ugly fat friend). Many people may be turned off right there by this movie, but we cannot pretend this is not a thing. This movie had a ton of opportunities to address this - and failed at every one.
How does our "strong female lead" respond to this news? Does she decide to own it and make it something other DUFFs are aware of, leading some kind of DUFF revolution? Does she ignore that guy because he's a shallow moron and realize high school is dumb? Does she tell her friends and team up with them to get revenge on guys who objectify all three of them by determining each girl's value based on her looks? Nope. What she does is tell off her friends who are pretty but never mean, and then asks the guy for makeover tips to win a boy she has a crush on. Oh, yes. You heard that correct. The "feminist and empowering" message of this movie is... any girl who is prettier than you is the enemy and you should totally listen to a guy's assessment of your value?
Ugh. I honestly do not have anything positive to say about this movie. I waited and waited, thinking it had to get better, but instead she ends up dating the jerk and that's it. That's the movie. She writes a newspaper article about her experiences, but learns nothing (nor do we).
I thought about talking about how much better the role models are in other teen movies, but honestly, it doesn't even matter. This movie is so far from getting the point. I know it's based on a book and I have the book but haven't read it. I hear that's better, although it would not take much. I hope the protagonist is a lot more likable. In the movie, she's just awful. (And my favorite Games of Thrones character is Cersei, so I am very empathetic towards difficult women.) I just can't understand how anyone can find anything enjoyable about a girl who hates her only friends simply because they're pretty. I'm not winning any beauty pageants and my best friend growing up was ridiculously attractive, but that's not her fault. I would never choose a guy over my friend and to choose a guy over friends when your friends are supportive but pretty and the guy calls you ugly and fat... no. This movie is a nightmare.