G.B.F. – It’s Not Shit
I don’t know, Darren Stein. Jawbreaker was 15 years ago. And All About Evil was cute, but definitely flawed.
Will going back to high school work?
TL;DR It does. GBF may not have the sinister spirit of Stein’s previous 2 features, but it’s bursting with energy, fun, one-liners, and just enough sentimentality to keep it off the fluff pile. It’s like if Jawbreaker had a less evil little sister. 4 out of 5 stars.
Also, it’s been 5 months since the last It’s Not Shit. I need to watch better movies.
The plot of GBF focuses on Tanner, the titular Gay Best Friend. He is a quiet high school boy until he’s outed by some well-meaning, if selfish, girls who want him as the must-have accessory dujour. He is courted by 3 prom queen hopefuls: Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse), the hot, bitchy one; ‘Shley (Susan’s daughter from Desperate Housewives), the ditzy, Mormon one; and Caprice, the black, drama student one. He undergoes a typical teen movie makeover (a gay-over), which angers his old best friend, Brent. They also have intermittent sexual tension. Blah blah blah Tanner learns important lessons about life, himself, and the depth of the people he thought were shallow. Tanner eventually goes to prom alongside Fawcett (though not the original prom), they win king and queen, Brent and Tanner reconcile, and everyone ends up happy.
And, in a first for a Darren Stein feature, nobody ends up horribly murdered. Which is mildly disappointing.
So I’ll admit that I’m devastatingly biased towards this movie. Jawbreaker is one of my Sacred 3, and one of the greatest teen movies ever made. I enjoyed All About Evil, but it wasn’t the follow-up to Jawbreaker that I wanted.
GBF shows that Jawbreaker’s irreverent hyperealism is still alive. Yes, it takes a more toned-down, heartfelt approach. But how can you not love a world where the leader of the school’s gay-straight alliance (motherfucking JoJo) actively hunts down and outs gay people so she can then be supportive of them?
Why I DON’T hate this movie:
The casting porn is satisfaction enough. Sasha Pieterse (Pretty Little Liars), Megan Mullally (Parks and Recreation, Will & Grace), Natasha Lyonne (But I’m A Cheerleader, All About Evil), Rebecca Gayheart (Jawbreaker, Urban Legend), Andrea Bowen (Desperate Housewives), and Evanna Lynch (Harry Potter. If you’re into that kind of thing). If only they’d managed to shoehorn Nina Dobrev in there. Or Rose McGowan.
While I am disappointed with GBF’s lack of bite compared to Jawbreaker, it does manage to get its more PG message across delicately and effectively. Not only does Tanner work towards getting the girls to respect him as something other than a gay piece of jewellery to flaunt, but he also learns that everyone else has their own issues and secrets, too.
The greatest benficiary from this tact is Sasha Pieterse’s Fawcett, who turns out to be actually very intelligent and sensitive. Her sorrowful admission to Tanner that, compared to ‘Shley and Caprice, she has nothing likeable about her is what seals their friendship. And it doesn’t turn out to be a ploy or a trick. It’s true. And it’s nice.
Speaking of nice, ‘Shley, originally positioned as the fundie freakshow Mormon, turns out to be irresistibly sweet. She’s actually endearingly dumb, and prefers to think that everyone should just be good to everyone, and that’s what being a Christian should be about. Evanna Lynch’s character takes over as the crazy zealot, so that helps.
Megan Mullally steals all her scenes as Brent’s hip-to-be-square mum. She suspects her son is gay, and tries her best to be openly supportive. In the most awkward, mum way imaginable.
Tanner’s parents are similarly supportive when he comes out to them, because they already know. Rebecca Gayheart is the coolest step-mum ever.
GBF is fucking colourful. Considering all the rubbish horror movies I spend most of my film life watching, it’s nice for a change.
JoJo plays the self-absorbed GSA leader who intentionally outs Tanner so she can have a gay of her own for the club. Natasha Lyonne, the GSA’s faculty advisor, is rightly horrified. JoJo takes it in her stride, though.
‘Shley’s boyfriend turns out to be a closet gay, but thankfully, he isn’t predictably tortured or angry about it. He’s not comfortable with coming out, but he is comfortable with who he is, and doesn’t flip the fuck out when both Tanner and Brent reject his advances. He’s like “Eh, whatever.” Refreshing.
The prom dresses are all brilliant.
The one-liners are contant and ridiculous. At times they are stilted, but that’s not even a problem. It would be hard to pinpoint which one is best, because most of the movie’s dialogue is composed of them, but this one from Caprice will stick with me. She and Brent are going to prom together, and Megan compliments her:
Megan: “Caprice, I’m impressed. I mean, you look very convincing.”
Brent: “My mom may think you’re a drag queen.”
Caprice: “I ain’t mad at that.”
When you look that good, how can you be?
Brent eventually has him dream of coming out at prom come true when he saves Tanner from being glitter-bombed, Carrie style. Teen movies need more glitter.
‘Shley ends up with Tanner and Brent’s straight, male friend. She is adorable.
Fawcett is famous for having “Best Hair.” Yes, she does.
Sasha Pieterse’s drunk acting is convincing.
Oh, and it’s only 90 minutes long. Snap snap.
But it’s not all good:
The pacing of the plot, despite the movie’s brevity, is fitful. And the major premise of Tanner getting fought over by the 3 prom queen hopefuls gets eroded by some bizarre plot events. The most egregious being the splintering of the prom thanks to Evanna’s barring of gay students, which causes Fawcett and Tanner to start up an alternative prom. This leads to Caprice and Brent, in their bid to become prom king and queen no matter what, reluctantly joining forces with Evanna and starting a homophobic hate campaign to crush the alternative prom.
This development all but secures Tanner as Fawcett’s prom date, thus concluding the “who will he choose” arc too early into the movie. And it leaves ‘Shley behind as her character diminishes in importance. It was uneven.
Brent and Tanner fall out over Tanner angrily outing Brent to Megan after an argument. This falling out takes most of the movie to overcome, but I don’t really buy that it should have been that severe. Megan already knew, which Brent even joked about earlier, and she was amazingly supportive. I think GBF just needed an excuse for Brent and Tanner to become enemies, and that was it. Pretty weak.
It feels a little low budget.
Tanner’s voice is annoying.
And again, on a personal note, I came into this expecting some type of venom and meanness, but got flowery innocence for the most part. But I understand that I’m responsible for that expectation, not the movie.
It’s not the next Mean Girls. It isn’t even the next Jawbreaker. But GBF is a breezy, fun ride that approaches semi-serious issues in an enjoyable, palatable way. The girls are all fabulous, and the boys are, too. It’s easy. It’s sweet. It’s been a long time coming for me. It’s not shit. 4 out of 5 stars.