John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews


Genre: Comedy

Director: Darren Stein

Cast: Michael J. Willett, Paul Iacono, Sasha Pieterse, Andrea Bowen, Xosha Roquemore, Joanna "JoJo" Levesque, Molly Tarlov, Megan Mullally, Rebecca Gayheart, Natasha Lyonne

MPAA-Rating: R

Release Date: January 17th, 2014

The plot of the new comedy G.B.F. sounds like the synopsis of a preachy episode of the show Glee. With its focus on high school kids navigating the sometimes tortuous halls of school and figuring out where they belong, ailment the story has ample opportunities to derail and become a nearly-unwatchable teen comedy.

Fortunately, erectile it never does and this new feature (directed by Darren Stein, the filmmaker behind Jawbreaker) proves uncommonly adept at wringing belly laughs out of its unusual premise.

The feature’s title refers to the phrase “Gay Best Friend” and according to all of the characters in this story, having a  G.B.F. is like having the best new high school accessory. Sure, there have always been high school divas and teen queens but what makes one stand apart these days is a G.B.F and the hunt for one composes much of this feature’s plot.

The school’s flamboyantly gay Brent (Paul Iacono) is still in the closet but his shy best friend Tanner (Michael J. Willett) is pushed out of his own closet when Brent downloads an app on Tanner’s phone that locates other gay people in the area. The app is tracked and Tanner is eventually “seduced” by three teen queens who want him to become their prized possession (in order to get the upper hand for the upcoming vote for prom queen).

The trio of high school divas— who co-exist peacefully as Tanner notes like “neighboring warlords in a 3rd world country”— are composed of Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse), ’Shley (Andrea Bowen), and Caprice (Xosha Roquemore). Fawcett is the stereotypical mean girl “who loved fads and hated fatties” while ‘Shley is the super-religious Mormon and Caprice is, as another character notes, the “sassy black friend” (S.B.F.).

Writer George Northy seems to appreciate the high school clique system (in its 21st century form) in a way that’s easy to love. He presents these characters as flawed individuals, who despite their callous decisions, are only trying to find themselves and survive the torment of high school. And in spite of some of the clichés often rampant in high school comedies, most of his characters always seem like real (although sometimes stereotypical) people. Brent, for instance, could’ve easily slipped into cliche territory with his big personality but he’s usually presented here as a three-dimensional character whose overconfidence hides his heartbreak.

To be sure, there are moments in this feature that feel as contrived and trite as you would imagine. One of the loudest critics of homosexuality is secretly gay and of course, some of the Mormon characters are presented as “repressed.” Such moments take away from the fun spirit of the rest of this story.

But, unlike other teen comedies that settle for being crude and offensive like The Virginity Hit (2010), G.B.F. has a real heart  and a real desire to present teens as they are (warts and all). Other than a few contrived jokes, the rest of the comedy is insightful and fresh. G.B.F might not be as flawless as the scenes featuring Megan Mullally (who plays Brent’s mother) are but it is one ferocious comedy.

Review by: John Hanlon