Director: Olivia Milch
Cast: Lucy Hale, Kathryn Prescott, Alexandra Shipp, Awkwafina
Watch Dude online in the UK: Netflix UK
Every month, we highlight films directed by women on Netflix UK. We call it Women on Netflix.
Dude opens with four best friends smoking marijuana in a car, while rapping along to Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, just in case the audience wasn’t aware that this was going to be a film about getting stoned with your friends. But it’s also a film about dealing with loss, preparing for the transition from high school to whatever the future might bring, and everything else young women today have to deal with. Following Lily (Lucy Hale), Chloe (Kathryn Prescott), Amelia (Alexandra Shipp) and Rebecca (Awkwafina) through their last few weeks of high school as they make decisions about college and prom and the future of their friendship, Dude feels like a film that tries to do so much, and touch on so many issues, that it actually ends up not really doing anything at all.
That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its strengths and bright moments. The chemistry between the four girls is excellent, and some of the most authentic moments of the film are when they’re just left to be on screen together, communicating in that truly unique language that every friend group has, full of inside jokes and references. It’s a shame that the girls are pulled apart and separated so much, their bonds stretched and manipulated, as they take tentative steps into adulthood, because the film is at its best when they are together. While Awkwafina and Shipp bring the more comedic moments, Hale and Prescott are the heart of the story, particularly Hale, who manages to bring both a fragility and strength to Lily, commanding our attention whenever she is on screen.
It would have been easy for Dude to feel exploitative, but Milch brings a refreshing approach not often seen in other films of the genre, preferring lingering shots of the Los Angeles landscape and close ups of her casts faces, rather than constant shots of them in bikinis or compromising positions. While the approach to female sexuality does feel progressive, there are a few troubling moments. One of the characters is raped at a party, an event that is then completely brushed over and largely forgotten about, and there is a running joke about Rebecca’s character having a crush on a teacher, which starts off mildly amusing but is completely inappropriate by the end.
If Milch had chosen a specific plot line to focus on, Dude could have been a standout addition to the teen buddy genre. As it is, it manages to focus on both everything and nothing at once, leading to some pacing issues the talented cast doesn’t quite manage to make up for. Much in the same way the characters anticipate prom, only to find it anticlimactic, we’re kept waiting for a big finish that never quite seems to come – but we have no afterparty to make up for the disappointment.
Dude is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. New episodes of Season 2 arrive weekly on Fridays, within 24 hours of their US release.