Saturday, February 15, 2014

G.B.F. — Review

I'd first heard about G.B.F. due to an outcry about its MPAA rating: R. People were upset about it because it doesn't contain language, sensuality or nudity that you wouldn't see in a PG-13 rated film. There's just one difference between G.B.F. and most other movies like it (critics automatically compare it to Clueless and Mean Girls): same-sex relationships and attractions are a huge theme in the movie with at least four gay male characters. Thus, critics of the rating maintain, the R rating isn't so much about language, violence and sensuality so much as it is about the movie being—well—gay.

The movie came out in a limited theatrical release last month and on video on demand services. While I could have streamed the movie, I opted to wait for the DVD release (independent movies—and most LGBT-themed films are—aren't so likely to get Blu-Ray releases, I've noted). If I shell out my money for something, why not something I can keep?

There has been some discussion over the film: is it perpetuating stereotypes? The film's trailer seems to show the film as a piece about a high school boy who comes out of the closet and becomes a toy for the popular girls at school. To an extent, that's what happens, but the film actually has a message behind it that goes beyond petty high school status symbols.

The film opens with two best friends: Tanner (Michael J. Willett) and Brent (Paul Iacono) who both happen to be closeted gay teenage boys. When the popular girls at school realize they could use Guydar (a sanitized Grindr-ish app) to see if any of their classmates might be gay, Tanner is forced out of the closet and into their friendships.

At first, Tanner enjoys his new popularity: hanging with the coolest kids who try to find him hot dates, but soon he realizes that he has no time for his old friends who were his friends because of who he was, not because he was gay. Stirring up the plot is the upcoming prom, organized by the religious McKenzie Price (Evanna Lynch), who isn't interested in letting boys bring boys to the prom.

The film comments a lot about how people, even in acceptance, don't quite understand how to treat gay people. Your gay best friend is not an accessory or a statement: they are a person. Brent's mother (Megan Mullally) hears that her son is gay (though she already figured it out), and instead of having an earnest talk with him to build understanding, she treats him with nervous acceptance and tries to bond with him over gay movies that he's not in the mood for. (She offers hilarious commentary over Brokeback Mountain.)

In response to McKenzie's anti-gay rules for prom, Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse) decides to start an "all-inclusive" prom, but explains that "to be all-inclusive, we have to be exclusive," when Tanner notes that she turns away prom applicants. Caprice (Xosha Roquemore) wants to break the rut of white prom kings and queens and noting Tanner, decides to add "straight" to the list of things to change up. Perhaps their aims are admirable, but their methods are seriously flawed.

Even trying to out someone by association or stereotypes is made a point of: a friend of Tanner's is believed to be gay, even though he's straight. In contrast, Brent is made out by many to be straight, even though most characters suspect that he's gay.

While the writing is full of these nice messages (a short exchange even points out that few would be supporting a lesbian prom queen), the overall quality is rather rough. The Wikipedia entry for the film suggests that the script was rewritten little if at all from its first submitted draft (it was entered to a contest), and the film was shot in less than three weeks, leaving little time for the story to be further developed. As a result, the film certainly has its flaws. Sometimes the action onscreen seems to be quite stilted, but fortunately, no notable cringe-worthy performances.

Despite that, however, G.B.F. is worth a watch at least once. Amazon, Vudu and iTunes let you rent it starting at $4, and in a year or so, it might be up on Netflix or Hulu.

1 comment:

Simon Walker said...

Thanks for the wonderful review, Jared! GBF is definitely a typical high school story, where most of the teens suffer identity crisis and peer pressure. Amidst the flaws you encountered, it covers almost all the aspects of a teen’s life, such as family, school, religion and friendships. Anyway, I do hope you'll be able to post more honest movie reviews in your next posts. Kudos! :)

Simon Walker @ The ViewLorium