By Jessica Concha
I am not really much of a person to do book and movie reviews but I thought that since I have been binge reading lately and always have been binge watching movies--I might as well try to write a review about them, since well, I like to write and I'm talkative and here I am and I can't stop going . . .
On to the important stuff: I do not have a perspective on reading before watching a movie, or watching the movie before reading the book because some people have a pretty strong opinion about the matter. In the case of "The Duff," I saw the movie before I read the book. I did not hear about the book until after the movie came out, and my motivation to read the book came after watching the movie. (So I guess you can say I really liked it? Yes?) Since I saw the movie first, I will write the review, movie first before the book, and then write a comparison at the end of the post.
There will be spoilers on this review, so I am just putting it out there.
THE DUFF (MOVIE VERSION)
I saw the trailer in the theaters with my best friend and we playfully joked that we both wanted to see it because we do not really see a lot of teen romance like She's the Man, A Cinderella Story, or Mean Girls type movies anymore. Although I am wayyy past my teenage years, I still am pretty sappy about these kind of movies.
The movie is centered around Bianca, who by no means popular but is friends with popular, attractive girls (Jess and Casie). She is an average looking girl and kind of weird in a non-creepy way. She has her own thing going on and in the beginning of the movie, it appeared as if she did not care about what people think until she was called "The Duff" by Wesley Rush (played by Robbie Amell, who by the way I already loved since his Life With Derek days).
So Wesley. Fucking. Rush. (I do not mean to put the 'F' word out there but for those who have read the book, you know what I mean!). Wesley is the most popular guy in school, a jock, and a good looking one at that. Wesley was using Bianca to get to her friends and playfully called her the Duff or the Designated Ugly Fat Friend. According to Wesley, you do not have to be ugly, or fat, but a duff is just the term to describe this one person much less attractive than his/her friends. (And you have to admit, Mae Whitman is not fat, or ugly--and in Wesley words, "I would never call someone fat or ugly, that's messed up!").
Some of the book lovers hated the movie because of the whole cliche plot line where Bianca wanted to become a 'dateable' girl and Wesley needed a tutor in Chemistry. Although this did bother book lovers (and I'll tell you why later), I did not mind the storyline because I knew from the onset that watching this type of movie will give me all sorts of cliche (and sometimes, that's just what I needed. Why do people think cliche is bad?).
There are so many things I loved about the movie. Although it did have a kick on the cliche plotline, and some will argue this, Bianca's character did not have a major transformation to become a beautiful swan. In the end she was still the same Bianca, but a more confident version of herself. I also liked how she had a foundation of friendship with Wesley before anything else (and I mean since they were babies), and I also liked how despite Madison (Bella Thorne's character) is a walking mean girl, Bianca's best friends Jess and Casie were both the opposite of how attractive, popular girls are depicted these days. The movie was also something most of us can relate to because every one has their own insecurities.
At the end of the day it was a fun and light, movie. I think they were going for the audience that the classic Mean Girls movie went for, but I still think it lacked the certain elements. I think it's also because they made the movie PG-13 and not R, so it was not as bold as it should have been. Overall, the message was really inspiring, along the lines of 'there will always be somebody who is prettier, smarter, and you will always be somebody's duff. It should not stop you from liking yourself anyway' which again reminded me of the mean girls line 'Calling somebody fat will not make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid won't make you any smarter' yaduh.. yaduh. Not exactly the same, but about the same wavelength. If you're in it for a feel good movie, this is the way to go. I know I'll be re-watching it again.
THE DUFF (BOOK VERSION)
I read the book in one night--the day after I watched the movie. I thought the movie was good and I wanted to see how different it was from the book. I think I will be a little reserved in writing the comparison (I'll save that for later), and go strictly for the book review.
I think that even though it is a young adult book and a teen book at that, the book is a little deeper than the title make it to be. First off, I did not think it focused on her being "The Duff" because it was just more or less what started her relationship with Wesley but nothing more. The book is a little raunchy (I do not mean erotica, and as much as I'd like to be open-minded about it, I've never read a full blown erotica book. Oh, no pun intended) and the book touches upon sensitive topics like family issues of divorce, alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, importance of friendship--which from the onset is wayyy more than just your typical gooey teen book.
The book also went into character development of actually falling in love, which in a sense, pulled some hearstrings for me because how many guys actually admit to being crazy about a girl and actually, and genuinely, using the 'L' word. ("Wesley Rush doesn't chase girls, but I'm chasing you.") Oh, I'm melting. Another thing that I liked about the book is that it tells about the situation that children on broken families go through, it is awkward and in a sense very painful if you think about it.
In the end, the underlying issues depicted in the book are coated in a modern-day urban-dictionary word with added funny scenes and interactions among the characters. If your arrow points north, this book is definitely not for you.
THE DUFF (BOOK AND MOVIE COMPARISON)
Before I start, I might as well put it here: They are so different it might well be from two different galaxies.
The premise for both the book and the movie is the same. Bianca gets called "The Duff" by Wesley and pretty much started the whole charade. The names of the characters are still the same, but I think almost everything else has changed.
1. Bianca and Wesley were not childhood friends.
Unlike in the movie where they are neighbors and they had some type of love-hate relationship because they've known each other since they were little (the movie takes the cake on this one for me), the book however says otherwise. Wesley and Bianca were not friends at all, they do not acknowledge each other in school besides taunting each other, and they kind of just start sleeping together in secret in the books. Bianca goes through family issues because her parents were going through a divorce, and her means of escape--and she worded it as if Wesley was her drug--she goes around having sex with Wesley just to forget. They are just friends with benefits--no, just F buddies since they weren't even friends in the books. In my weird Twilight reference, Wesley is Bianca's personal brand of heroin. Yup...
2. In the movies, she lives with her mom.
In the movies, Bianca's character lives with her mom post-divorce already. Her mom (the actress) is hilarious and very supportive with the sense of non-normalcy attached to it. The book on the other hand is the opposite because Bianca lives with her dad who happened to be an alcoholic and is just going through the divorce that has not yet finalized. For most of the book, Bianca's mom is away and travels the country. She pops here and there to talk to her, but otherwise, she's almost a non-existent character.
3. In the books, Wesley is not just smokin' hot, but super rich too.
Some people just walk through the light. They're an awesome athlete, good-looking, smart (third highest GPA in his class--according to the author), and he's rich that his family owns a mansion. Yes, a mansion. Wesley in the books had a little bit more of the background story because he mentions his parents are usually away, he has one sister who lives with his grandma (and absolutely hates him because of his 'lifestyle'), and gives off that vibe that he's just a misunderstood jock. In the movies, Wesley did not seem rich, he seemed to be the one with parents that argue all the time, and his sister was not in the picture. I understand that they could easily cut off her character because she almost was never in the book anyways. . .
4. Madison (Bella Thorne's character) did not exist in the books.
There's no mean girl Madison in the book. I read somewhere that Bella Thorne originally auditioned for Bianca Piper's character but did not get the part. She does not even match the character description on the book so I see why. Apparently the producers loved her so much that they had to rewrite the script to add her in. I am 50/50 about the addition of her character because I do not know if I liked it or hated it. Adding her character made the movie--like how the movie was, cliche--and she was a competition to Bianca. No competition of the sort in the books. Wesley was free to mess with our Bianca, and fall in love with her too on his own accord *wink*.
5. Unlike in the movies, Toby Tucker was not a douche bag.
Toby Tucker in the books is by all means a gentleman. He had a girlfriend in the beginning of the book, and then they broke up eventually. He and Bianca started going out (like for real, girlfriend and boyfriend status) that you'd feel guilty because he was a really nice guy. In a sense, he was the perfect boyfriend you'd introduce to your parents, but it seemed that no matter how good you are, if you don't like the person, it's just not worth the hassle. Bianca and Toby parted ways in a a good way.
Toby in the movie version though... please.
I can go on and on about the differences and I might end up writing the whole book so I just wrote the biggest changes. You can read the book to see the rest because I think it's refreshing to see how they adapt books into movies. I know some hate it, but then if you think about it, putting hundreds of pages of books into a two-hour or less movie is a big challenge. Some things in the book are not picture friendly, and you deviate from it--or more--afterwards. Overall, I enjoyed both and a definite trip back to my teen days.