Vancouver Queer Film Fest: G.B.F. puts a gay spin on the teen female clique flick
Oh, the female adolescent clique flick—from Heathers and Pretty in Pink to Clueless and even Carrie, the subgenre is awash in cattiness and sassiness and fabulous outfits that many a gay man relishes with voyeuristic glee.
So it's a logical step to bring a gay character to centre stage, as Darren Stein's over-the-top social satire does. G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend) mines the teen cat-pack canon (even throwing in Canada's Degrassi) to queer effect, with mixed results. Pop cultural reference–spotting (hey, remember LiLo?) and an overall brisk momentum keep things moving along, though uneven performances and some off-notes in the story arc hold the feature back from truly hitting its mark.
The gay-best-friend of the title is apparently what the fashion bibles dictate is the latest must-have handbag. Alas, North Gateway High is severely lacking in this social currency, thus prompting the female students to stage a witch-hunt for gay guys to drag out of the closet. When desperate schoolboy Brent Van Camp (Paul Iacono) concocts a scheme to become the prized possession, a mixup results in his own less flamboyant, more low-key GBF, Tanner (Michael J. Willett), being outed. And lo, Tanner becomes the object of a competition between girls fiercer than Beyoncé's alterego and Tyra Banks combined.
The school's Mean Girls triumvirate consists of the blond ambitious Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse), who is fairer on the inside than she truly lets on; drama department queen Caprice (Xosha Roquemore, razor-sharp in delivering zingers), who minors in minorities; and goody-two-heels 'Shley (Andrea Bowen), leading her Mormon Blahniked entourage. Faster than you can shriek "PROJECT!", Tanner is made-over into a gay fashionplate and pressured into conforming to stereotypes (when he says he's into comicbooks, he's told that's not gay, that's lame).
Predictably, Tanner gets swept up into living the glamorous life with these ladies, leaving behind a jealous and forlorn Brent and his real friends.
The competition to secure Tanner as a prom date turns into a gay-rights issue that divides the student body.
Along the way, Tanner has to fend off 'Shley's sexually aggressive closeted boyfriend (Taylor Frey), in scenes as forced as his advances, while Brent has to fend off his overly gay-supportive mom (the perpetually scene-stealing Megan Mullally, of Will and Grace fame).
Ultimately, while this offering may not rival the other films it so liberally and unabashedly references, G.B.F. is a crowd-pleaser and one that will keep camp fans—and those with revenge fantasies about their high school days—easily amused.
G.B.F. screens at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival on Wednesday (August 21) at Vancity Theatre and on Friday (August 23) at a Youth Gala at the Rio Theatre.