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BFI Flare Film Festival Review: G.B.F.

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G.B.F stands for ‘Gay Best Friend’, a pseudo-tolerant, repulsive term that some people use to describe their friends whilst boasting about how so amazingly cool they are with their fellow human being’s homosexuality. It is a loathsome phrase that continues to otherise gay people and prevent assimilation into mainstream culture and society.

Darren Stein’s high school comedy decides to take this predicament to the teen high-school comedy genre. The resulting film does throw some light on how those who purport to be advancing equality actually restrict its progress through labelling others.  

The premise involves a boy who is inadvertently revealed as gay and then becomes immediately popular with the social-status obsessed girls who think they rule the school. They want a ‘Gay Best Friend’ and he fits the bill.

The most annoying thing about the film its borderline hypocrisy. One minute we are being asked to remember that gay people are just as normal as anyone else and should neither be stereotyped or marginalised, the next minute we are asked to laugh at jokes which directly equate being gay with being effeminate or bitchy or camp.

There is also too much inflammatory language thrown around by people who should know better. Homophobic and/or dated words such as ‘queer’ and ‘queen’ are used with apparent ‘reclaimed’-legitimacy, though it makes for an uneasy experience for those who believe their continued usage is actually detrimental to advancing equality.

The most effective treatment of gay issues within a school setting in recent years has been the MTV/Sky Living series Teen Wolf, which portrayed a world where nobody cares or pays attention to whether someone is gay or not. This may be wishful thinking, but it is far more effective than a lot of the stuff going on in G.B.F.

Stein has tried to stir up controversy on Facebook regarding the film’s MCAA certificate in the USA (it was rated ‘R’) by arguing this amounted to homophobic discrimination. To be complete honest, I’d support the ‘R’ rating, as the film contains frequent and sometimes crude sex references that would be just as difficult to contain in a PG-13 rating if they related to heterosexual sex. While the MCAA has shown homophobic tendencies in the past, I think they got it right this time. And besides, in the UK it’s rated 15, which is as close as we get to America’s ‘R’ rating.

Leaving such issues aside, the comedy value of the piece ranges from limited to shockingly poor. There are a handful of clever scenes. One includes a mother watching Brokeback Mountain with her obviously uncomfortable gay son whilst she gives an enthusiastic running commentary of a sex scene. But for every joke that hits, many more miss and a lot of it depends on referencing other films and shows that do this kind of things so much better, such as Mean Girls or Glee.

Nobody could go as far as accusing this film of being nasty or bigoted as its heart is clearly in the right place. The central performance by Michael J. Willett is very endearing and watchable and proves he is a better actor than the material he is working with allows him to be. The final few minutes rightly mention that many gay people don’t want to be accessories to straight girls and prefer not to be asked if they will have a ‘gay wedding’ as in their minds they will just be having a wedding, pure and simple. But there is something about this movie that so desperately tries to seem up-to-the-minute and topical when really, watching it in 2014, it already feels tired and dated.

G.B.F. (2013), directed by Darren Stein, is released in the UK by Peccadillo Pictures, Certificate 15. The film was screened at the BFI Flare Film Festival 2014. Watch the trailer below.

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