G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend)
Sort of like a "Mean Girls" for gays - which I realize is completely redundant - "G.B.F." (which stands for "Gay Best Friend") is a silly, over-the-top confection that is hard to take seriously as a viewer or as a critic, which ironically is its strength. The film is directed by Darren Stein ("Jawbreakers") in a frothy blast of color, and written by newcomer George Northy who knows his way around sassy one-liners and ridiculous situations.
The film takes place in a small town high school where, it is assumed, there are no gay people, specifically of the male variety. When a popular celebrity magazine states that having a G.B.F. is all the rage, the leaders of the three most notorious high school cliques set out to find one of their own. But who? Little do they know that there are two gays in their midst. Sadly, one is so flamboyant these girls are either mentally impaired or too completely self-involved to notice. He is Brent Van Camp (Paul Iacono) whose own gay best friend is the handsome and reserved Tanner (Michael J. Willett "United States of Tara"). Tanner has wanted to come out for a while, but doesn’t want to make the reveal a big deal. Brent, on the other hand, would prefer it to be a monster event, but is so frightened of the reality that he remains firmly in the closet, even though his hip mother (cutely played by Megan Mullaly) is wholly aware of his sexual orientation.
Anyway, do-gooder Soledad (Joanna ’JoJo’ Levesque) wants to form a Gay Straight Alliance at school, but since there are no gay people, the guidance counselor Ms. Hoegel (Natasha Lyonne) won’t approve it. So Soledad and friends go about infiltrating a gay dating app (a la Grindr) and end up outing Tanner. While this causes a few initial bullying issues, he is suddenly swamped by the three mean girls, given a makeover, and becomes the most popular kid in school, much to Brent’s chagrin.
The mean girls are: Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse) of the Golden Locks, ’Shley (short for Ashley and played by "Desperate Housewives alum Andrea Bowen) the hypocritical Mormon, and Caprice (Xosha Roquemore), future star and resident Drama Queen. These three descend on Tanner, vying for his attention and using him for their own gain. In the meantime, Tanner ignores his friends and messes up a date with a potential real-life boyfriend. The film culminates at Prom with a riff on "Carrie" and some John Hughes-like resolutions.
Truth be told, the film is not without its problems. Some of the acting is too over-the-top, and the script, while filled with repeatable zingers that (specifically) the young gays will be whipping back and forth for years to come, is a bit cliché and unrealistic. It does, however, sprinkle in some lessons on acceptance and the busting of stereotypes without being overtly preachy. The other plus is that Stein isn’t directing the film to be realistic, so any problems end up working to its advantage. It also helps that the cast gets progressively more and more enjoyable, with two standouts: Willett and JoJo.
Williett is best known as the bleach-blonde boyfriend of Toni Collette’s son on "The United States of Tara." Here, is adorably aloof, sweet, and charmingly underplays just how attractive he is. As a result, he makes a relatable and appealing "hero" we want to follow and root for.
Pop singer JoJo doesn’t have the largest of roles, but she quickly proves her excellent comic timing. She easily reminds us of the kind of actress Lindsey Lohan used to be, and if her agents play their cards right, she could swiftly take over her career.
The other mean girls Bowen, Roquemore, and Pieterse are required to do a lot of posturing, but as the film evolves, they each get some genuine moments that show them as more than just one-note cutouts. Lacono displays some charisma as the put-upon best friend who makes some terrible choices only to be led to make the right ones.
At times the movie feels all over the place and the tone is a bit goofball. The largest misstep is the makeup that is fairly garish throughout the entire movie. It’s just not very good and demonstrates how a seemingly minor detail can prove a major distraction.
That said, its target audience will enjoy this, and crowds at various festivals like Outfest will think it’s a hoot. It’s colorful, the music is fun, and the actors win you over. "G.B.F." likely won’t break out into mainstream movie houses, but it’s delightful enough that you’ll leave with a smile despite its problems.