Fawcett: What’re you doing after school? Wanna sip extra large low-fat iced coffees and talk shit about people?
Teen movies have long since explored different stereotypes and the dreaded high school clique. The films of John Hughes, for example, have given us the high school student archetype, with the jocks, the nerds, the outcasts and of course, the obligatory Asian. We never saw any openly gay characters though, (yes, Ducky was obviously a ‘mo, but he was never out) and Hughes’ movies were too rife with homophobic slurs to include such a character anyway. Then the 90’s gave way to the “token black character”, which seemed to appear in every teen movie during that decade, but racial equality was a hot topic at the time so it wasn’t all that surprising. Then MEAN GIRLS came along in 2004 and introduced us to Damien, who was “almost too gay to function”, but at least there was a gay character in the mix, even if that entire movie was targeted towards a gay audience to begin with. Now, the “token gay” has replaced the “token black person” in mainstream film entirely, allowing gay stereotypes to be perpetuated freely. Fortunately, we have films like G.B.F., which stands for Gay Best Friend, a movie that makes a subtle attack on how straight people perceive gay men, while mocking the idea that every gay guy wants a fabulous female counterpart. Sorry girls, this isn’t always the case.
Directed by Darren Stein (JAWBREAKER), the movie follows Tanner (Michael J. Willett) after he is outed to his high school when he accidentally stays logged into a GPS-based gay hook-up app. Now that he is the only out gay kid in his school, he is subjected to ridicule and taunting by the jocks, and even more offensive, he is vied after by three of the school’s wannabe queens, who all want him as their coveted G.B.F. accessory. Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse) is the blonde teen bombshell who believes befriending Tanner will secure her place as Prom Queen. ‘Shley (short for Ashley and played by Andrea Bowen) is a mormon teen soldier with a chip on her shoulder. And then there is Caprice (Xosha Roquemore), the intense African-American, who now thinks she has to compete for top minority on campus.
While the young and clueless girls all fight over what they think is their property and attempt to mould Tanner into what they think a gay guy should be like, his attention is taken away from his best friend, Brent (Paul Iacono), who thought he would be the coveted gay accessory, that season not the shy, comic book-loving, Tanner. As their friendship begins to fall apart, Tanner loses sight of who he actually is, not that he even really knew who that was to begin with. He becomes overwhelmed with trying to be too many things to too many people, while feeling uncomfortable that he isn’t in fact any of those things to begin with.
There is some obvious teen movie homage throughout G.B.F., including some of Stein’s own signature slow motion shots of teen cliques strutting down hallways, which is a sweet campy treat. More than anything though, it is the cast, both the young and the more seasoned actors, who really make this film worthwhile. Megan Mullaly plays the role of Brent’s mother, who knows her son is gay and is desperately trying to drag him out of the closet, for his own good. While her character on “Will and Grace” was sometimes more hag than one could handle, she brings a certain sensitivity here as a mother who accepts, but doesn’t fully understand, which is probably the most realistic approach. Forcing her son to sit down and watch BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN while providing an audio commentary is by far one of the funniest scenes of the entire movie, one which I really hope was improvised. The young cast is also exceptional, especially Willett, who conveys Tanner’s adolescent confusion with a sense of honesty and passion. This isn’t a melodramatic character study though; Stein takes a fun and lighthearted approach to G.B.F., which makes it very easy to enjoy while still being truthful.
G.B.F. is a broad comedy that should play well across the demographic board, despite its obvious teen target. While the message that not every gay guy wants to be an accessory to a hetero girl is clear, it also shows us that these girls have more to them than what they are projecting out into the world. Sometimes they have to play roles they don’t particularly want to play as well. The film’s only problem is the plot itself, which is formulaic through and through. If you played it beside MEAN GIRLS, the plot would almost mirror it exactly; a character accidentally gets sucked up into a whirlwind of new friends while leaving their best friends behind, forgets who they are and eventually realizes they weren’t doing what they wanted to be doing and reveals it all at prom in front of the entire senior class. It isn’t groundbreaking but I’ve got to say that didn’t matter to me in the least. I was smiling and laughing too much to care.
How many sheep would you give G.B.F.?