Writer George Northy and director Darren Stein manage to subvert and salute the traditions of the high school comedy in this smart, fresh, and funny story that shakes up the classic elements of teen movies but recognizes their eternal verities. It is fitting that a story about undermining stereotypes slyly undermines expectations of high schoolers and high school movies. Everything from “Mean Girls” to “Clueless” to “Pretty in Pink” gets shaken and stirred.
High school makes a great setting because it is a universal experience of heightened emotions that lend themselves well to comedy, drama, and identity. It is the last place where everyone is pretty much stuck together. The core elements of high school movies usually feature an outcast and often end up at prom. “G.B.F.,” which stands for “gay best friend” follows that formula. It is the story of two closeted gay seniors in a school that (improbably) does not have a single out gay student. While a few years ago, this might have been a touching story about the courage to come out and confront homophobia, and a few years before that a comedy about a student pretending to be gay but really being straight, this film is set in a school with straight students who are desperately hoping for openly gay classmates to come out so that they can befriend them. It’s hard to have a gay-straight alliance without any gay members. And not one, not two, but three high school divas are desperately seeking a GBF as an accessory, to tell them how fierce they are.
The three divas are drama queen (really, she rules the theater clique) Caprice (Xosha Roquemore), Mormon goodie girl ‘Shley (Andrea Bowen) and capo de tutti capi Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse). When Tanner (Michael J. Willett) is accidentally outed via an app on his phone, he all goes from zero to hero as the three girls compete with each other for his attention and favor. The girls have a few surprises in store as well, as does Shley’s boyfriend.
The tone falters in spots and the acting falters frequently. The appearance of Natasha Lyonne as a teacher just reminds us of how much better she was as a teen actress (especially in another gay-themed film, “But I’m a Cheerleader”) than many of the cast here. But the quick, witty dialogue and the good heart of the film make it fun to watch and the heartening message helps smooth over the rough spots.