When I heard that Jawbreaker writer-director Darren Stein was bringing around another satire, this time about the popular trend of the GBF (that’s Gay Best Friend for those of you out of the loop), I was kind of excited. Here’s that point where I pull out my Gay Card and admit I get giddy when I hear about simple queer comedies getting a release. Speaking as that gay guy who came out mid-high school and sort of went through the motions of being the token GBF (while still being as awkward as non fashion-savvy as the film’s lead), it’s kind of refreshing to see a movie like this.
G.B.F. is all about the same old high school routine that we’ve seen a million times. In a nutshell: cliques, drama, prom queens, and sex. This time around, you’ve got two closeted gay best friends and a trio of queen bees, each of whom rule over a different portion of the school. When one of the guys gets outed by the other, he skyrockets to popularity and the girls begin to fight over the accessory of their dreams. Needless to say, drama and a whole lot of ridiculousness ensues. Writer George Northy pulls no stops in drawing shamelessly from other big flicks centered around those crazy high school years, and more importantly, prom. Heathers, Carrie, Stein’s own Jawbreaker, and Mean Girls most of all. The last of these even provides one of the best cutaway jokes in the film (which also playfully cribs from Dreamgirls).
All that cribbing from something iconic is part of the charm that comes with the film. A certain sense of self-awareness is essential for a comedy that’s mostly dedicated to poking fun at the concept of a gay best friend, and it’s got more than enough of that. Northy’s satirizing of high school clichés is just about as subtle as Stein’s was in his day — that is, to say, not at all. Where something like Glee failed miserably at utilizing high school stereotypes, G.B.F. actually tries to play with them. The results vary, but the one group it beautifully nails to the cross (aside from the religious) are the straight allies just looking for just another accessory to make them feel better about themselves. In this regard, Jojo and Natasha Lyonne — the latter of which starred in the queer satire But I’m a Cheerleader — are both a damn riot. Occasionally the film does tend to throw the queer community under the bus, not in Regina George fashion, but for the sake of a joke. Problematic moments like those take a little something away from the good intentions that the filmmakers seem to have otherwise.
Stein never quite manages to recreate those glory moments of Jawbreaker, the slow-motion walks feeling emptier now that they’re not featuring the magical Judy Greer and Rose McGowan. At the very least, the cattiness never runs dry from this bunch. The not-so-typical popular blonde, the sassy black girl, the Mormon girl, the straight ally, and every gay, closeted or not, all just ooze bitchiness. If anything, that very word is overused to the point of desensitizing it almost entirely. The only moments when the film tones that down is to go for some actual romantic beats between all the jokes about gay hook-up apps and the repressed sexuality of the religious. The romance is cheesy, tacky, and predictable, but it’s hard to fault it for that when everything else is so dang entertaining.
Silly, messy, and covered in a bucket of glitter, G.B.F. is far from perfect. It’s like an arts and crafts project that looks like a disaster from afar, but up close you can see all the love that was thrown into it. Sure, it won’t please some people, but at least Darren Stein’s made a movie that might actually help some high school kid realize he’s a little more than what he thinks he is. At the very least, I wish I would have had something like this around when I was in the same position. For some it’ll be the guiltiest of pleasures, but even with its issues, it’s good fun for those looking to have a gay old time.
Directed by Daniel Stein; written by George Northy; starring Sasha Pieterse, Michael J. Willett, Andrea Bowen, Xosha Roquemore, Paul Iacono, Derek Mio, Joanna “JoJo” Levesque, Molly Tarlov, Evanna Lynch, and Natasha Lyonne; 94 minutes.