If you’ve seen all the Oscar-bait films and are craving something lighter but just as sharp and smart, G.B.F., a queer-themed teen comedy-palooza, is certain to satisfy. A fave of audiences and critics alike when it played festivals last summer, the clever tale from director Darren Stein, whose resume includes writing and helming both Jawbreaker (soon to be a stage musical) and Sparkler, will open in theaters this month. This colorful send-up of Mean Girls and other high school-set comedies depicts the social warfare that’s ignited when three teen queen bees (Sasha Pieterse, Xosha Roquemore and Andrea Bowen) compete for the hottest new accessory — the gay best friend (Michael J. Willett). G.B.F. sparked a bit of controversy late last year when the Motion Picture Association of America slapped the amiable comedy with an R rating despite it not containing sex, nudity or a single F-bomb. Stein chatted with Queerty about the film, the high school closet and the MPAA’s double standard for queer cinema.
G.B.F. is the first comedy you’ve directed that you didn’t also write. How did you come to the project?
George Northy’s script was one of the finalists in the Outfest Screenwriting Lab. I was paired with G.B.F. to direct scenes for the festival’s staged reading. I fell in love with the script and asked him if I could option it to direct. We brought it to studios first and then got the film financed independently.
It fits in perfect unity with your earlier comedies Jawbreaker and Sparkler. Was George a fan of your other films?
George was a fan of Jawbreaker and the teen genre in general. The film references so many teen movie tropes and it was fun to see the slow motion walk from Jawbreaker in there. He managed to write a high school film that felt new while still being referential to teen films of the past. It was forward-thinking and nostalgic all at once.
What was your response to the screenplay when you first read it?
I was laughing out loud and it was a movie I wanted to see. I had to ask myself if I really wanted to revisit the whole hallway strut thing, but once Tanner joins that traditional ‘mean girl’ line-up, I knew an evolution was happening. It’s a fulfillment of a fantasy of many gay guys as well as a smart commentary on the changing landscape of high school culture.
How has the film been received at festival screenings?
It’s been great hearing all the laughter. A lot of guys are coming up to me after saying they wish they had this film when they were teenagers. It used to be as burgeoning gays, that we had to find the code or subtext in films and G.B.F. puts it all out there with the gay kid center stage. It’s important for queer kids to see their stories in a genre where they’ve always been relegated to the sideline, comedic relief or the butt of a joke.