A romantic comedy that gives you all the feels.
Co-written by and starring comedian Billy Eichner (whom you’ve most likely seen pop up on television here and there), Bros is selling itself as the first major studio rom-com to feature two gay men in the leading roles. Directed by Nicholas Stoller, Neighbors (2014), and produced by the legendary Judd Apatow, Bros, however, is more than just its ‘tag,’ the film a generally sweet love story about the hurdles of relationships that’ll resonate no matter one’s sexual preference. Bros is also a celebration of rom-coms in general — from nods to 1998’s You’ve Got Mail, 89’s When Harry Met Sally…, and even a reference to Renée Zellweger. The whole feature is held together by a couple of winning performances from Eichner and his romantic co-star Luke Macfarlane, Single All the Way (2021), who literally share ‘all the chemistry.’
Billy Eichner plays Bobby Lieber, a gay man living in The Big Apple who hosts a queer podcast called 11th Brick and is the writer of a collection of children’s books that detail gay history. Bobby is forty years old, has a close-knit circle of friends, and is still single and pretty much happy to remain that way. Bobby also just so happens to be in the midst of bringing his dream project to life, opening the first National LGBTQ+ History Museum in the city of New York.
One night while out at a club, Bobby meets Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane), a sexy estate lawyer he finds very attractive. While initially butting heads — Bobby calls Aaron ‘boring’ and Aaron keeps randomly disappearing — the pair find themselves strangely drawn to one another. After a few meet-ups, Bobby begins to see the potential of a serious relationship with the chiseled Aaron, who’s a bit more hesitant and uncertain of what he wants out of life. And so, while the couple navigates the tricky waters of courtship, they must overcome those common rom-com trials and tribulations; you know the ones: fiery arguments, sex, ex-troubles, and meeting the family, all presented here with a uniquely queer perspective.
In essence, Bros is a fairly by-the-numbers romantic comedy that tackles scenarios we’ve definitely seen before. Still, there’s lots to enjoy here, thanks to filmmaker Stoller and writer-star Eichner, who keep the proceedings moving at a pretty swift pace. There’s an amusing scene early on where we see what Eichner’s Bobby has to do in order to get that perfect buttock shot for a Grinder hook-up; a sweet trip to Provincetown, where the men go to secure a millionaire donor named Lawrence Grape (an amusing Bowen Yang) for Bobby’s struggling museum; and a snowy Ney York Christmas where a nervous Aaron decides to introduce Bobby to his family with calamitous results. There are moments of sweetness peppered along the way, with the men opening up to one another and getting more intimate, revealing their fears, insecurities, and dreams (it was wonderful to see the macho Aaron talk about how he wants to become a chocolatier).
Interweaved throughout the narrative is a subplot revolving around Bobby’s LGBTQ+ museum, with filmmakers using this to highlight the fact that although queer people have been around since the dawn of time, it only feels as though it’s now that they’re starting to tell their stories, the film itself being evidence of this notion. With that in mind, it’s the moments featuring the LGBTQ+ board that are the funniest, with Dot-Marie Jones, Jim Rash, Eve Lindley, Miss Lawrence, and Ts Madison nailing all of their scenes as the bickering board members that Bobby must learn to listen to, remembering that his voice and experiences aren’t the only ones that matter when it comes to the museum. The movie also features some razor-sharp jokes about queer culture and how it’s being integrated into the modern entertainment industry to capitalize on new audiences. The best of these bits involves a new lineup of LGBTQ+ rom-coms produced by a Hallmark-esque network — an advertisement for a faux show, A Holly Poly Christmas, had my audience in stitches! And oh, there are a few stellar cameos by Debra Messing, Kristin Chenoweth, and Ben Stiller that are worth mentioning.
While it’s definitely great to see the entire cast populated by LGBTQ+ actors — even those playing straight characters — the highpoint is the connection and commitment of leads Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane. Eichner demonstrates that he has what it takes to be a movie star, the 44-year-old showing his comedic chops along with his vulnerability and more romantic persona whilst highlighting what it’s been like to grow up as a gay man in New York City; heck, Eichner even gets to perform a musical number, ‘Love Is Not Love,’ which is one of the standout moments of the film. Similarly, Macfarlane is solid as Aaron, crafting a complicated character who’s a little more reserved and uncertain about his future, one who eventually comes to realize his hunger for affection. Eichner and Macfarlane are fire on screen and totally command their scenes together.
Bros does a good job of showing us that while ‘love is love,’ a queer relationship will always differ from a straight one, even when traversing the well-trod rom-com path. Either way, Bros will appeal to a diverse audience as it’s relatable, well-written and performed, and genuinely funny. Hopefully, this is just the start of a new trend where we’ll see projects backed by major studios like this, where LGBTQ+ folk are finally able to let their voices, experiences, and narratives be heard.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Dan Cachia (Mr. Movie)