I haven’t seen it in a good long while, but I was surprised by Darren Stein’s 1999 dark comedy Jawbreaker. It brought that same guilty satisfaction you get when you eat peanut butter out of the container with a giant spoon. You shouldn’t be enjoying it, it’s probably bad for you, but you can’t stop soaking in the indulgence.
Since Stein’s latest film G.B.F. deals with this same visual style and the same vapid teenage life now set in a modern world, giving the filmmaker plenty of fad devices to work with, I should’ve received the same contentment I discovered in Jawbreaker as a teenager scrubbing through forgotten comedies. But, I didn’t.
The film isn’t as bad as the trailer may lead you to think. It’s actually funny here and there, but the film isn’t as amusing or as clever as it thinks it is.
G.B.F. has the right premise and material conceived by screenwriter George Northy to build an original, satirical foundation. It pokes fun at the high school “in” crowd as well as their desires to stay popular and one-up other intimidating social butterflies.
Word quickly spreads around Northgate High that having a G.B.F. (a gay best friend) is currently “in” and is a guaranteed step-up to those who want to achieve the utmost respect amongst their student decibels and the title of “Prom Queen”.
Gay students at the high school are few and far between – finding an openly gay person is an even tougher task. However, those few who are actually gay and haven’t come out yet are aware of this new trend and start preparing. Two of these students are Tanner (played by Michael J. Willet) and Brent (played by Paul Iacono), with Brent being far more excited and “in the know”.
As Tanner is soon sucked into the wacky world of high school cliques and popularity, he starts to figure out that being a hot commodity isn’t so bad. He also learns more about the ones who want him to be apart of their social lives and the realities they live, hidden behind their Gucci glasses and handbags.
Showing gay people as “hot commodities” and treating them as objects sounds a lot worse on paper along with taking steps in the opposite direction regarding acceptance among peers. That said, Stein is able to take this ridiculous premise and halfway breathe life into it. He highlights the ludicrous nature of it all and is able to show ignorance and dopiness in shallow students who think finding a gay person is like finding a sci-fi escapee from Area 51.
Occasionally, Stein and Northy overstep in their broad delivery with some cringe-worthy deliveries from RV’s Joanna ‘JoJo’ Levesque and Harry Potter’s Evanna Lynch, but this is all done in a trashy, non-serious fashion that filmmaker John Waters would approve of.
However, notice how I said Stein “halfway breathes life” into this would-be full-fledged satire. It’s because Northy’s script lead by Stein’s misguided direction takes the film into a more bubbly direction – wanting to capture those same high spirits found in memorable teen movies like Mean Girls (a movie that’s referenced a few times in G.B.F.).
It isn’t wanting to be dark or edgy, but instead wants to be that teen movie for a modern age that you can recommend to your friends giving you indie cred. The comedy gets broader, the lines become more crashingly obvious with each acronym and short-form, and scenarios take on a saggier form – including a whole latter portion devoted to duelling proms. All this takes place while the film exudes a poorly lit televisual look that resembles a cheap PSA.
After a while, movie goers forget the potential that G.B.F. showed early on and we, unfortunately, settle with a less-than-par mimic of what the PG-13 crowd accepts nowadays.
Catch G.B.F. on:
Sunday, May 26 at 4:30 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
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