Starring: Billy Eichner, Luke MacFarlane, TS Madison, Miss Lawrence, Bowen Yang, Debra Messing
Director: Nicholas Stoller
There was a lot of hype about Bros. The very first gay Hollywood studio romcom, its writer and lead Billy Eichner (The Lion King, Billy On The Street) fanned the flames by ensuring that every member of the cast is LGBT+, piling even more significance onto this film of “firsts”. With Judd Apatow producing and a multiplex cinema release, the expectation surrounding it was vast. So does it live up to its promise? Well... partially.
Eichner plays Bobby, a thinly veiled version of the comedian, who is a podcaster now trying his hand at opening New York’s first LGBT+ museum. He’s been single for most of his life, preferring to find intimacy with his friends and through hook-ups with random guys from apps. That is until he meets Aaron (Macfarlane – Brothers & Sisters, Single All The Way), a beefed up circuit party gym bro, whom he assumes he will have nothing in common with. Dating glacially slowly with the duo competing for the title of Most Emotionally Unavailable, they gradually realise they had more in common than they first expected.
The plot is pretty thin adhering stoically to the romantic comedy playbook, but it’s definitely helped by a strong script with rich dialogue penned by a writer who is clearly an expert on the community he is satirising. His depiction of Bobby’s moral dichotomy – convinced that he’s found happiness in himself when really he craves the love that’s always been deprived of him – is a spot-on depiction of the legion of damaged gay millennials who self-sabotage their own happiness for the sake of a sassy reputation. Meanwhile, Aaron’s meathead gym tough-guy who’s obsessed with his own masculinity is a slice of the gay community we rarely see on film, which causes Bobby to re-examine his own manhood in a way he hadn’t since childhood. And it’s this constant self-examination that drives the crux of the plot.
This is a film that is trying to say a lot. Eichner spends much of the script trying to live up to the significance of this movie. He’s trying to say a lot about being gay in 2022 – and he does mostly manage – but there are times when it verges on preachy, with very privileged characters talking about obstacles that seem alien in this high-gloss Hollywoodised Queer America. Scenes within Bobby’s museum mention icons from LGBT+ History, while its workforce are the most diverse group of supporting characters possible... but this is still a story about two white cis men, which we all know we have seen before.
The dialogue is pithy and fun for sure, with both its romantic heroes well-drawn and vivid characters. Their back-and-forth dysfunctional romance provides enough meat for its audience, even if it runs longer than it should. Eichner makes for a fun lead, while the criminally underrated Macfarlane is utterly charming and the director dines OUT on his gym-pumped physique. From app-culture to group sex, coming out on social media to injecting testosterone, Bros tries really hard to cover all things gay, even if nearly all of these centre entirely around sex. And while it succeeds at depicting this side of gay life with aplomb – I mean, that’s striking for a Hollywood movie, for sure – it decidedly can’t succeed at being that landmark gay romcom for all gays when the demographic it aims for is actually quite narrow.
There are a handful of really joyous sequences that depict the Queer experience on screen well. However, there are also some real missed opportunities to just tell some fantastic jokes. Debra Messing makes a great cameo as herself and Eichner sets up a really funny situation with her, but then fails to deliver as the joke just fizzles out. When you compare Bros to the real greats of its genre, you realise that it is this inability to deliver a punchline that doesn’t let it climb higher than being just a good romcom, not a great one.
LGBT+ audiences will love Bros, but that widespread appeal that Eichner was scrabbling for won’t come until he delivers something truly hilarious. It might have the glossy sheen of a big budget Hollywood romcom, but the emphasis is on the rom over the com and broader audiences won’t come until the emphasis is clearly more on the latter.
UK Release: Out now in UK cinemas, released by Universal Pictures