Gloriously. Bitchy. Film.
When it comes to teen comedies about a young protagonist ultimately finding both themselves and / or love, I feel like there are two routes movies usually take. Either the movie is an extraordinarily entertaining, beloved blend of heart and humour like, Love, Simon (2018), or Easy A (2010), or it’s a silly, over the top romp that most audiences hardly remember. You know, movies like, But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) or The DUFF (2015). G.B.F. (2013) is undoubtedly the latter. And don’t get me wrong, I adore both these kinds of movies! Case in point, check out my reviews for Easy A and But I’m a Cheerleader here, and here.
G.B.F. tells the story of Tanner Daniels, a closeted high school student just trying to blend in. When Tanner is outed to the entire school, the three most popular girls in school suddenly become very interested in him. Why? Because each is on the hunt for the newest and hottest accessory: A gay best friend.
I am very fortunate that the setting for my first ever viewing of G.B.F. was super ideal. It was in high school and one of my best friends and I watched it in her basement when we were already in such a giggly mood and looking for a silly movie to watch. We had the BEST time! We loved the excess fabulousness, the bitchy comebacks, and all the high school clichés. I remember initially dismissing G.B.F as cheap, dumb fluff. Boy, was I mistaken. Now that my knowledge of and taste in movies has greatly evolved and expanded, I can see now just how campy and tongue in cheek the movie really is. Sure, G.B.F isn’t going to go down as one of the smartest or most stunning teen movies of all time, but it nails the off-beat, self-deprecating, satirical tone it’s going for and consistently delivers. I love a movie that you can both laugh at AND with, and G.B.F is just that.
To the untrained eye, G.B.F. may come off like nothing more than an irrational, zany, incoherent movie slathered in sequins and skinny jeans. But if you actually pay attention and peer beneath the veneer of wackiness (that is lovably laughable by the way) you can see that the movie takes some actually very relatable material and just delivers it in an over the top, satirical way. G.B.F. may seem like another teen comedy, and it definitely is, but it’s also an enlightening look at how gay men are commodified by straight people. Tanner is never seen as a real person by the popular girls and is instead used as an accessory, a mascot, and ultimately a feelingless, sexless, object. For a lot of gay people, especially those who are surrounded by a plethora of heterosexuals, this is a very real experience. Is it always as blatant as G.B.F. makes it out to be? No. But the fact that gay people are often treated as stereotypical objects for the entertainment of straight people is very real. G.B.F. does a great job of showing how entitled straight people can be when it comes to the treatment of gay people, not realizing that their actions, though not overtly harmful, are still problematic as hell. So, let me repeat it one final time: Gay people are so much more than your antiquated stereotypes, and and are not here to be your accessory, mascot, punchline, or “sassy, fierce, best friend.” God, I love a movie that educates you without you even realizing it.
G.B.F. is a lot like a watered-down, low-rate version of bold teen comedies like, Clueless (1995) or Jawbreaker (1999). Coincidentally, Darren Stein directed both G.B.F. and Jawbreaker. G.B.F. is perhaps not as brilliant or unique as those movies, but trust and believe that it’s just as fun and enjoyable. I won’t call this movie cheap, but production-wise as a whole it does have the visual quality of a direct-to-DVD product. Although, that’s probably largely due to the humble $3 million budget. That’s the testament to quality filmmaking though. The fact that Stein is able to pull off an entertaining and relevant movie without having the resources of a huge budget is a talent. G.B.F. is a sweet and cute movie, as are the performances from the cast. Especially from Michal J. Willett who plays Tanner. Sometimes the acting come across as a tad wooden though and that’s a bummer because the writing is so good that it would really take the movie from a B+ to an A if the young cast better understood how to land a joke. When it comes to renowned comic actors like Natasha Lyonne and Megan Mullally however, trust and believe that the jokes always land.
I saw G.B.F. before I saw movies like Love, Simon or But I’m a Cheerleader, and TV shows like Glee (2009 – 2015). As obscure a movie as it is, it was the first time that I personally saw an LGBT+ story about teenagers that actually ended on a happy note. Nobody is horribly abused, nobody turns to a life of drugs, and most importantly nobody dies. Come on Hollywood, you really need to quit it with the “bury your gays” trope already. I’m glad I came across a movie like G.B.F. when I was still young. I don’t always think about it but it subconsciously inspired me to search out similar queer stories that don’t end in disaster. For that, I’m extremely grateful to this movie. If you decide to check out this movie for yourself, I hope you have a similar epiphany!
Have you seen G.B.F.?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!