Wednesday, April 22, 2015

G.B.F.

Directed by Darren Stein.
2013. Rated R, 92 minutes.
Cast:
Michael J. Willett
Paul Iacano
Sasha Pieterse 
Andrea Bowen
Xosha Roquemore
Molly Tarlov
Evanna Lynch
Natasha Lyonne
Rebecca Gayheart

Tanner (Willett) is a high school kid who has come to accept the fact that he's gay. However, he's not comfortable enough in his own skin to come out publicly. At the insistence of Brent (Iacano), his also gay and closeted best friend, he downloads, or rather lets Brent download an app on his phone used by homosexuals to discreetly find one another. There just so happens to be a group of straight girls at their school who want to start a gay rights club. However, they don't know anyone who is actually gay. In order to find someone, they download the very same app as Tanner. As expected, they are led directly to him and out him to the entire school. Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. It's merely the setup for the actual plot. That plot involves the schools top three divas who uneasily share power over the student body. Each of them feels that having a gay best friend, or titular G.B.F. for short, will push them over the top and make them the supreme diva. The three of them competing for his friendship while treating him like a fashion accessory ensues.

G.B.F has a few things going for it. For starters, the internal struggle within Tanner feels genuine. This is a kid not sure what others will think, including his own parents, and is truly worried about it. He has a small circle of friends who know, but they're sworn to secrecy. Thankfully for him, they take their oath seriously. Michael J. Willett gives a nice performance that helps us understand his plight beyond just the dialogue. In fact, the acting is pretty good across the board. Other standouts include Sasha Pieterse and Xosha Roquemore as the blond diva and the black diva, respectively. The movie's most dynamic turn, though, is by Paul Iacano as Brent. He is, at once, a lesser and greater character than our hero. He is lesser because he is constructed almost entirely of gay stereotypes. His clothing, work, and style of speech all fit the laziest notions of the way we think a gay male might behave. This is a bit problematic within the plot, but we'll get back to that later. Brent is a greater character because he is asked to carry much of the film's comedy and most of it's emotional weight. Iacano completely owns both sides of his portrayal, good and bad. Whatever you think of the character, there is little denying Iacano commands our attention whenever he appears.

Unlike lots of other teen-centric movies, this one should be commended for not having the parents shown as totally clueless. Though they get very little screen time, they clearly understand what's going on and are unphased by it. Rebecca Gayheart as Tanner's mom is the moviest funniest character, but she may be a bit too enlightened. From the moment we meet her it's obvious she knows her son's sexual preference, but is trying to let him tell her on his own terms. In fact, she practically begs him to do so without explicitly saying it. The "too enlightened" part has to deal with her pretty much encouraging Brent and Tanner to have sex. My daddy-antennae went up right here because I don't want my kids having sex at all, gay or straight, and I'm certainly not doing and saying some of the things she says. Still, she 's funny. Tanner's parents get far less to do, but like I said, they're tuned in.


As much praise as I've given G.B.F., I was ultimately disappointed by it. It's approach to it's subject matter is a major problem. It takes a timely topic in today's society and makes it feel dated. No doubt there are teenagers all across America, and probably around the world, that identify as homosexual and are struggling with the ifs, whens, and hows of coming out. The battle for gay rights plays out in the media on a daily basis. Still, this is curiously behind the times. It reduces the battle to something waged at the whimsy of straight people. It also supposes that at this pretty sizable high school only three people are gay, our heroes plus gal-pal Sophie (Tarlov). Here's where Brent's character becomes a problem. He's very effeminate and wears bright, colorful clothing. Like it or not, people are going to assume he's gay. However, the setup of the movie hinges on the idea that no one does. Later, people do assume that when it is convenient for the plot. As for Tanner, we need to go back to that setup, for a sec. The instant Tanner is exposed, jocks are lining up to beat him up in front of the whole school. I know that kids are still beaten up due to their sexuality. I'm not that na├»ve. However, this still seems like an unfortunate exaggeration. I also know that not everyone is accepting of "alternative" lifestyles, but again, this is a bit much. Are there places where it plays out just like this in a post-Glee society? If so, shame on the people who inhabit them and make them that way.

My biggest gripe with G.B.F. is actually not with the movie itself, or even the filmmakers. It's with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the R-rating they slapped this thing with. I don't work for the MPAA, but the rating each movie is given appears to come down to three things: sexual content, profanity, and style of violence. Since there is no violence, we can eliminate that as a cause. No, the jocks never actually get to beat up our hero. As far as profanity goes there are a few stray dirty words, and some talk about BJs and HJs. Those abbreviations are never explained and even if they were, it would be nothing in comparison to something like the Think Like a Man movies, both rated PG-13. Sexual content is rather benign, here. There is a shot of a girl on top of a guy in a bed, kissing him. However, both are fully clothed. It's not anywhere near as graphic as Bella and Edward's love scene in Breaking Dawn - Part 1, another PG-13 flick. The only thing left for the Association to hang its hat on is something they call "thematic elements." Whatever the official definition of this term, it can be boiled down to subject matter they deem too mature for the people they're restricting from buying a ticket. this is a complete joke. While I'm not particularly fond of G.B.F. as a whole, for reasons already given, I also believe it's precisely the type of film teens need to see and decide its artistic merit for themselves. Not only is it a movie aimed at this generation of adolescents, it is based on a topic relevant to people in their age group, and to the world evolving around them. Kids across every demographic are having conversations on these very topics, probably using much harsher language than what's in the film. It's these types of decisions that make the MPAA appear out of touch, self-righteous, and possibly, homophobic. It is clear that the collective youth of their membership has long since faded into myths of their own making.

5 comments:

  1. I think I'll skip this one...

    Nice balanced breakdown of the film, bro!

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    1. Yeah, don't think you're missing anything special. Thanks.

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  2. "As much praise as I've given G.B.F., I was ultimately disappointed by it. It's approach to it's subject matter is a major problem. It takes a timely topic in today's society and makes it feel dated."

    I totally agree, this was my main issue with the film. I was very surprised by the praise this film got.

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    1. So was I. Overall, it swung and missed on what it was trying to do.

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  3. I really enjoyed GBF, but with the HEAVY qualifier that I thought it was more well-done than most other "gay movies". Basically, I've seen a lot of these things, and so many of them are completely shoddy affairs. This one at least looks and sounds and feels like an actual movie, and for that reason alone, I quite liked it. Although, yeah, the whole thing about no one even thinking that someone THAT obviously flaming was gay made no sense, even though the movie did try to have some fun with that. Overall, it's not a great movie. But grading on the "gay movie" curve, it's WAY up there.

    That bullshit about the R rating, though, is unbelievable. I saw this in Netflix and didn't realize it wasn't a PG-13 rating. That's ridiculous.

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