The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



The first fifteen minutes of G.B.F. are not entirely promising. The movie, whose acronym stands for “gay best friend,” starts off as though it's going to be one of those broad stereotype-filled comedies that mistake outrageousness for satire. Stick with it a little longer, though, and you discover the opposite is true. The humor is often broad, but never as broad as it could have been, and it eventually eases up to allow for some moments of maturity and compassion. Despite being free of sex/nudity/violence and offering positive portrayals of gay teens, the MPAA has (in its infinite stupidity) given the film an R rating, meaning that the very audience who might most appreciate G.B.F. may be prevented from seeing it. My advice to those teens: buy a ticket to Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and sneak into G.B.F. instead.

This is the story of Tanner (Michael J. Willett), a gay student at North Gateway High School. His best pal, Brent (Paul Iacono), is considering being the first “out” student there. Through a complicated series of events, Tanner is accidentally outed first, despite his lack of readiness. The jocks are quick to begin tormenting him, but protection comes in a most unlikely form. Three of the school's most popular girls – Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse), Caprice (Xosha Roquemore), and 'Shley (Andrea Bowen) – all see a possibility to have him as a desirable fashion accessory, a Gay Best Friend. The school's LGBT Club, which doesn't have any actual LGBT members, also wants him so their cause can be legitimized. At first, Tanner is furious about all this, and gets even by outing Brent to his mother (Megan Mullally). Then he begins to like the attention, as well as the fact that no one picks on him when he's around the cool girls. They don't want to share him, though, and before long, a war for his loyalty begins.

G.B.F. contains a lot of silly pop culture-related jokes about being gay, such as one of the girls forlornly noting that Tanner doesn't “talk like the guys on Bravo,” and someone else being called “gayer than a Very Special Episode of Glee.” Many of these jokes are a little obvious, but a few are kind of funny. Screenwriter George Northy lands some better character-based jokes. The prim-and-proper Mormon 'Shley, for instance, is really named Ashley, but she shortened it because, we're told, “that's about as edgy as she gets.” The biggest laughs come from Megan Mullally as the mother eager to let her son know she's okay with his homosexuality but unsure of how to do it. A scene where she rents some gay-themed movies for them to watch is the best joke in the whole film.

If the humor is about equal in terms of hits and misses, G.B.F. excels when it gets a little more topical. Over time, we learn that one of the girls is not as superficial as she seems. She and Tanner begin to bond, and eventually they work together to take on an inequity regarding the school prom. The movie also goes to interesting places with the friendship between Tanner and Brent, who are tied together in being among the school's few gay students, but also at odds in terms of how/when/to what extent they should come out. In sections like these, G.B.F. offers up very healthy, honest portraits of gay teenagers, struggling to accept themselves and find acceptance from others.

Perhaps the most interesting idea running throughout the movie has to do with society's viewpoint on homosexuality. Gay people have, of course, historically been the victims of unfair harassment, condemnation, and prejudice. G.B.F. argues that bending too far in the other direction isn't a whole lot better. Tanner becomes little more than an accessory to those around him, like a designer handbag or an expensive pair of shoes. He's an excuse for them to pat themselves on the back for being open-minded. And it's all because of the same mechanism that allows for intolerance: only being seen as “gay” and not as an entire human being with many facets. As it brings its story to a conclusion, G.B.F. makes a compelling point that no one should be viewed from just one angle. By focusing on any sort of label, we end up doing a tremendous disservice to someone who is every bit as multidimensional as we ourselves are.

Although it occasionally borders on exaggerating some of its supporting characters a bit too far – as in the way one morphs into a virtual Westboro Baptist Church member in the third act - the pros here outweigh the cons. Joyfully acted by the ensemble cast, and given a brisk pace by director Darren Stein (Jawbreaker), G.B.F. imparts a message many people will do well to hear. That it does so in such entertaining fashion makes it worth seeking out.

( out of four)

Note: G.B.F. is getting a theatrical release starting January 17, but it will also be available on demand the same day.

G.B.F. is (stupidly) rated R for sexual references. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.

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