The Netflix Queue: G.B.F (2013)
Every decade has its iconic teen movies that the relevant generation will forever claim are infinitely better than today’s teen movies. In the 80s, John Hughes ruled the scene. In the 90s we got modern high school Shakespeare adaptations (for the record, those are my favourites, and I love many of them very deeply). The early 2000s had Mean Girls, and the 2010s… well, G.B.F (2013) wants to be that movie. Very, very badly. The thing is, I’m not convinced the writer (George Northy) has spoken to a real live teenager, ever.
G.B.F, an acronym for Gay Best Friend, centres around closeted high schoolers Tanner Daniels (Michael J. Willett) and Brent van Camp (Paul Iacono), who believe they’re the only gay students in their entire high school. They also believe no one else, including Brent’s well-intentioned but slightly overbearing mother (Megan Mullally), have no idea, although the only way to make him more of a stereotype would have been if the film’s budget could afford Lady Gaga’s music rights. Brent gets the idea that an elaborately public coming out would boost his social status and make the school’s three “queens” desperate to claim him as their G.B.F, but it’s Tanner who’s accidentally outed by way of a gay-finding app (totally not Grindr) and well-intentioned but totally out-of-touch GSA founder Soledad (Joanna Levesque). The popular girls fight over Tanner, Brent gets jealous, and everyone speaks in slang and text speak that no one actually says out loud. The plot thickens when all three queen bees want to somehow use Tanner to boost their chances of winning prom queen. ‘Shley (short for Ashley) Osgoode (Andrea Bowen), a devout Mormon, plans to befriend and then convert Tanner, which causes a rift with her best friend McKenzie (Evanna Lynch), who then tries to get Tanner and the date Caprice Winters (Xosha Roquemore) sets him up with banned from prom. Out of jealousy, Brent gangs up with McKenzie and her group to protest and boycott the alternative prom and end up getting the “official” prom cancelled; everyone ends up at Tanner and Fawcett’s prom; Tanner’s date ditches him and hooks up with ‘Shley’s closet-case Mormon boyfriend, and everyone learns an important lesson of friendship.
It’s easy to make fun of G.B.F, and there is quite honestly a lot wrong with the film – the first twenty minutes or so are nearly unwatchable, since so much of the dialogue sounds like it was written by the Regina George’s mother from Mean Girls. It does get better if you stick with it, and several cast members put in solid performances: mainly its adult characters, particularly Megan Mullally and Natasha Lyonne as one of the school’s teachers. The film’s teenage characters (in true teen movie fashion, not played by actual teenagers, with the exception of Fawcett) did well with their questionable roles too: Evanna Lynch was on point as the self-righteous homophobe; Joanna Levesque was hilarious as the completely clueless Soledad, and Sasha Pieterse did bring believable heart to the secret-chemistry-nerd Fawcett. And, as much as Brent was a walking gay stereotype, Paul Iacono did a great job with the character, particularly in his scenes with Tanner – their friendship felt genuine; their affection for each other palatable.
I don’t expect G.B.F to become one of the iconic teen movies of this decade, but in the end it was cute, and despite some cringe-worthy dialogue it was fun, with some genuine laughs. Come on, I can’t totally hate a movie that, apropos of nothing, takes a second out of its script to remind everyone that, yes, Drake used to be on Degrassi. Never forget.