When you get right down to it, the central hook in G.B.F. isn’t only simple, but more than a little simplistic, not to mention a tad behind the times. As George Northy’s screenplay repeatedly reminds us, gays aren’t simply fashionable mascots for affluent, status-seeking teenage girls, but—shocker!—actual human beings in their own right. And yet, the film, lensed in appealing candy-striped colors, has so much fun exploding stereotypes and radiates with such infectious comic gusto and genuine good nature, that it would be almost churlish to resist its charms.
Good-natured would definitely not be the word to describe the three “Queens” of North Gateway High—at least at the beginning of the movie. Each intent on cementing her status as the most popular girl in school, blond bombshell Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse), diva-ish Caprice (Xosha Roquemore), and Mormon goody-goody ’Shley (Andrea Bowen) are always looking for the latest advantage. So when they read in Teen Pose magazine that the newest fashion accessory is the G.B.F. (gay best friend), they despair of ever finding this must-have item since there are no out students in the school. But luckily for them, thanks to a new app called “Guydar,” which lets men find other men for hook-ups, and the efforts of the president of the gay-straight alliance, no less desperate than the Queens to find a gay student to use for her own purposes, closeted Tanner (Michael J. Willet) is unwittingly outed.
Much hijinks ensue, as the three Queens battle with each other for Tanner’s company while teaching this comic-book nerd how to “be gay.” But Tanner isn’t the only character to not conform to expectations, and much of the film’s humor derives from the inability of characters to comprehend people who don’t fit their preconceived notions. From Tanner’s friend Glenn, who everyone mistakenly assumes is gay, to Fawcett, who turns out to be a chemistry whiz, everyone is full of surprises. While it’s funny to watch the initial puzzlement on the Queens’ faces at Tanner not resembling the queer people “on Bravo,” there are more serious issues here, such as anti-gay bullying, which Stein handles with a deft touch, not downplaying the gravity of the situation, but never letting it bog down in Afterschool Special-style drama.
G.B.F. has no shortage of memorable lines, such as a student decrying Mormon bigotry with the O’Jays-paraphrased declaration that “they smile to your face, then Prop 8 you in the back,” and generally maintains a tone of even-handed ridicule that gently pokes fun at people for modifying their behaviors to fit social expectations, a welcome mainstay of the high school comedy. But the film is also compassionate, understanding the pressures that lead to these negative actions and allowing just about everyone, even the trio of supposed mean girls, to register as fully human. It’s a generous vision, almost too generous in its scenes of absurdly contrived resolution, but the movie’s wit remains perennially quick enough to undercut even these most life lesson-y of moments.