Darren Stein's new film G.B.F. (Gay Best Friend) won't be drawing comparisons to Will and Grace -- that fondly remembered sitcom was about a gay man and a straight woman who really were best friends. Stein's film is a comedy about high school cliques, where the queen bees use gay male friends as status symbols.
The performances are broad and the dialogue is often silly. Yet, G.B.F. has heart. Through it's humor it manages to make a fairly serious statement on the meaning of friendship and the importance of being true to one's identity.
Michael J. Willet and Paul Iacono are delightful as Tanner and Brent, two closeted gay nerds, best friends who might just be in love. That friendship is tested when bitch/diva Fawcett (Sasha Pieterse) decides to make Tanner over into the kind of hot, trendy, gay man she thinks he should be. Suddenly the invisible geek is the most popular guy at school.
As Brent watches sadly along the sidelines, Tanner both embraces and questions his new life, while wondering who his real friends are.
"The movie is the message," says filmmaker Darren Stein. "G.B.F. is an American genre film, a teen comedy, told from a gay point of view. The queer teenager is no longer relegated to the sidelines as the sidekick or accessory in the teen movie genre. He's a full blooded character who wants to belong and be loved it's his journey."
But it's the film's light hearted tone, that Sten feels will get the message of the movie across to viewers.
"Laughter is disarming," he says. "When an audience is being entertained, their guards are down and the message comes through in a more organic way."
But it's not just humor that carries the film's message, the cast plays an intricate role as well -- the actors playing Tanner and Brent are gay in real life.
"I think it's important to question the sexual identities of the cast in a film like GBF," he says. " It's not often that out gay actors play gay characters in a film designed for a mass audience.... Teenagers should know that there are now young, successful gay actors playing gay characters, and they have nothing to hide. Times are changing."
Although the tone of G.B.F. isn't along the lines of Will and Grace, it does have a conection. Will and Grace vet Megan Mullally is seen as Brent's loving mom, who accepts him as gay even as he hesitates to come out to her.
"Megan's a comedic force of nature," said Stein. "She's operating on a higher frequency. It's almost like watching a hummingbird. There's this effortlessness to what she does. We were lucky to have her."
But this movie isn't just for the gay teen audience, Stein invites straight audiences to check out GBF's universal message. "What compelled me about the script was that it was a great teen comedy before being a gay film," he said. "I knew gays would enjoy the film but what's truly exciting is moving beyond that demographic.... The message is that in high school, we're all in the closet about something. Queerness becomes just another way of feeling like an outsider. We're all trying to be accepted."
The film is now playing at the AMC Metreon (135 Fourth St.). There's a Q&A with Stein after tonight's 7 p.m. show.