VOD film review: G.B.F.
Ivan Radford | On 22, Mar 2014
Director: Darren Stein
Cast: Michael J. Willett, Xosha Roquemore, Paul Iacono, Sasha Pieterse, Andrea Bowen
Watch G.B.F. online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / BFI Player / Apple TV (iTunes) / Distrify
When it comes to high school, stereotypes are the real prom king and queen. They were taken apart brilliantly in Mean Girls, which is what makes it one of the great teen movies. Everyone knows it – and, like the popular girl in school, every teen movie wants to be it.
That includes G.B.F., out now in UK cinemas and on VOD. In fact, the film tells us so repeatedly. The characters refer to its plot, crush on its cast and gaze at photos of Lindsay Lohan on their walls. Well, one of them does. That’s Brent (Iacono), who’s desperate to out himself dramatically and become the latest popular fashion accessory: the Gay Best Friend. His actual G.B.F., Tanner (Willett), on the other hand, is happy to live in anonymity until graduation.
But when Tanner is unwittingly outed by Brent, he finds himself pursued by the three most popular girls in school: drama diva Caprice (Roquemore), dumb religious nut ‘Shley (Bowen) and blonde cheerleader Fawcett (Pieterse). The two male friends, meanwhile, sever all social contact.
What follows is your standard Mean Girls story: a rags to riches journey in which Tanner is adopted by the plastics. He and Brent even have a token best friend who mopes about being rejected. That’s the main problem with Darren Stein’s comedy: it’s not Mean Girls. And, as it keeps reminding us, it knows it.
George Northy’s knowing script milks enough novelty from its post-modern nods, but is lacking in the laughs department. The giggles that do come, though, carry a serious point: the awkwardness Tanner faces isn’t due to his schoolmates accepting him for what he is, but accepting him for what he isn’t. Just because a magazine says that having a G.B.F. is cool, they immediately impose ideals of what a gay best friend would be like upon him. Michael J. Willett’s flustered turn, meanwhile, is as un-camp as you can get.
That simple subversion gives director Darren Stein a point upon which to skewer modern values. Sasha Pieterse gives good conflict as a deceptively smart (yet still self-centred) bimbo, while Xosha Roquemore delivers a great social minority take on prom night. The show is stolen, though, by Brent’s mum (a hilarious Megan Mulally), who isn’t at all bothered that her son is homosexual – a source of much annoyance for him, because it goes against what teen movie traditions have taught people to expect. Paul Iacono’s reactions to her watching Brokeback Mountain are priceless.
It’s a shame, then, given G.B.F.’s almost exclusive trade in stereotypes, that the film falls back on some of its own: Harry Potter’s Evanna Lynch is impressively deadpan as an angry Mormon (“They’re making sin seem ‘in’!”) but her, ‘Shley and ‘Shley’s horny Mormon boyfriend are nothing more than two-dimensional targets for obvious jokes. The jocks, meanwhile, are so cardboard-thin you could make paper airplanes out of them.
Is it intentional? It’s hard to say. High school is, after all, a world defined by groups and cliques: stereotypes are the real prom king and queen. Despite its disappointingly formulaic narrative and lack of LOLs, G.B.F. does a worthwhile job of overthrowing them. It’s perhaps only fitting that it ends up crowning others in their place.
G.B.F. may be no Mean Girls, but you can bet that photo of Lindsay Lohan on the wall is smiling.
G.B.F. is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.