"A light, fluffy concoction but one so playful and unpretentious that it's easy to like."

For decades now, high school movies have been almost as much a right of passage for straight kids as the falling-outs, restored friendships, romances and proms they depict. As long ago as 1986, with Pretty In Pink, gay characters were starting to appear in the margins of these movies, but it's only now that they get to be the stars. Of course, the stories to be told about them now are not so different from the traditional straight ones. Part of what makes G.B.F. interesting is that it's a transitional film, with characters who haven't altogether figured this out.

Tanner (Michael J Willett) is a quiet, unassuming teenager who doesn't like to stand out - the opposite of his flamboyant best friend, Brent (Paul Iacono). So when he's accidentally outed and finds himself the school's token gay, it's all a bit overwhelming. Threatened by jocks, he doesn't have much option but to let himself be adopted by first one and then all three of the girls who rule the school cliques: honey blond queen bitch Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse), pearl-bedecked Mormon good girl 'Shley (Andrea Bowen) and tall, toned purveyor of attitude Caprice (Xosha Roquemore). To them, he's the new, must-have fashion accessory, the Gay Best Friend.

Of course, they don't want to share.

There's no real reason to expect depth with a plot like this, but G.B.F. pulls out some surprises. Perhaps its most daring shift is to humanise the girls, moving them out of conventional villain territory and showing that even those at the top of the tree in high school can be human, with internal conflicts and the capacity to change their minds. Subplots concerning Tanner's romantic life are also well handled, as is his relationship with Brent, marred by distrust and jealousy. Lingering issues around prejudice are explored with a light touch, but there's also humour around the assumption of prejudice in adults who are really quite liberated themselves - sometimes too much so for comfort. What's a gay teenager to do if denied that formative ritual of coming out to parents? This film suggests that there's no need to worry - there are plenty of other forms of teenage angst to go around.

Willett grounds the film, his meekness the perfect counterpart to all the glamour and high drama. A weaker actor in this often downbeat role could easily have unbalanced things, but he manages to remain sympathetic even when he's sulking and wanting to leave a party early. The supporting performances are generally solid, making familiar clich├ęs acceptable even to cynical viewers, and most importantly there's warm humour and a sense of fun throughout. It's a light, fluffy concoction but one so playful and unpretentious that it's easy to like. This is the high school movie gay teens have been waiting for, and it has plenty to offer for others, too.

Reviewed on: 20 Mar 2014
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After being accidentally outed, a shy teenager finds he has become the ultimate fashion accessory - the Gay Best Friend.
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Director: Darren Stein

Writer: George Northy

Starring: Michael J Willett, Sasha Pieterse, Evanna Lynch, Megan Mullally, natasha Lyonee, Rebecca Gayheart

Year: 2013

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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