BROS is the Rom-Com We Never Thought We’d See

“Love is love is love?! No, it’s not! That is bull****!”

When I took my boyfriend to the press screening for Bros, there was a part of me that was a bit nervous about how he would accept it. Unlike me, he has a slightly skeptical view of movies and refuses to cry, no matter how emotional a scene may be. This, along with his dislike of this summer’s Fire Island, had me suspecting that he would not embrace Bros, the first gay rom-com to be released from a major studio. Yet, I was surprised. He laughed when the film intended him to and seemed to genuinely take in the various struggles of the main character. By the time it was over, he commented: “It’s the kind of film that needed to be made.”

Indeed, a movie like Bros has been a long time coming. Part of the reason it has taken so long for this movie to come out has to do not only with an industry that’s been slow to move with the times but also with a need for the right kind of movie that accurately captures the gay male experience, which, fortunately, Bros does.

In Bros, co-writer and star Billy Eichner plays Bobby Lieber, a 40-year-old podcaster who finds himself tired of the gay scene and everything that has come from it. After meeting the handsome, well-built Aaron (Luke Mcafarlane), Bobby begins to let down his cynical guard as the two begin spending time together and eventually end up falling for each other. However, the pair soon discover that trying to date in the gay world is easy compared to falling in love.

A movie written by a comedian such as Eichner (along with co-writer and director Nicholas Stoller ) is going to be chock full of more jokes than it knows what to do with. As to be expected, some simply don’t work. Not because they’re not funny, but because they’re taken beyond their comedic capabilities. An early scene in which two of Bobby’s friends announce they’re in a throuple with someone and that their grandparents are thrilled for them is taken to the extreme when the scene cuts to the elderly couple jumping for joy when they hear the news. Another scene has a straight married pair of Bobby’s friends referring to the latter and Aaron as both being bottoms leading to them and their two children dancing around their playroom as they sing “bottom day!” Do people actually do this? Are there pockets of the straight world that are that open and comfortable? Perhaps, but they don’t make for potent humor.

The jokes which do work, however, are pure comedy gold. Cameos from Debra Messing, Kristen Chenoweth, and Bowen Yang are all great send-ups of their personas and the culture itself, while never taking away from the actual narrative. Beyond that, the funniest moments in Bros have to do with sex. There’s an awkward foursome in which Bobby and Aaron take part that grows more and more hysterical by the minute as the former tries to participate and keep everyone happy at the same time. Meanwhile, Bobby’s Grindr moments add some uproarious bits of undeniable realism. One of his encounters is unfulfilling, to say the least, while the other pokes fun at just how much a guy will craft his image in order to win a potential sexual encounter only to be discarded, or blocked, almost instantly.

But the goal of Bros was never to put the intricacies of the gay world on the screen strictly for laughs. At its core, the movie aims to be a representation of the gay world that’s brutally true and fair. Everything about what it means to be a gay man (especially one of a certain generation) is on display here, leading to some admittedly uncomfortable moments, but some truly cathartic ones as well. The gay world’s age-old divide between masculine and feminine comes up when Aaron’s family pops in for a visit, causing the latter to ask Bobby to tone it down a bit. In another scene, Bobby’s soliloquy about why he’s got such a complex relationship with love is such a powerfully raw moment, one which almost any gay man can relate to. Finally, the scene in which he and Aaron confront the fact that the nights of random hookups and threesomes have left them stunted and fearful that although they want to love each other, they genuinely may not know how is when Bros is at its most truthful.

All eyes are on Eichner in his first leading role. Most everyone going into the film will no doubt be familiar with his mega-popular Billy on the Street series and his supporting work in projects such as Parks and Recreation and The Lion King. Here he is front and center as the hero of Bros and his trademark sarcasm and one-of-a-kind energy succeed in making sure the honest hilarity of the film is carried through his character. There’s great conviction and vulnerability to Eichner’s performance, allowing him the kind of opportunity he’s never had until now. One hopes it’s the beginning of a new career phase for the actor.

The writer/star pairs well with Macfarlane, who for far too long has been cast in roles that capitalize on his looks and physique without ever offering any kind of commentary on them. Here, the actor is allowed to take his character and reveal the layers underneath, which he does in a very grounded performance that may also be his best yet.

The gay male experience seems to be flourishing this year when it comes to cinematic representation. The success of the aforementioned Fire Island explored the class system that exists within the gay world, while the upcoming Spoiler Alert looks to offer up a story of a gay relationship put to the test when terminal illness comes into play. Bros may be the most high-profile of the three thanks to its big studio marketing push and Eichner’s popularity.

But it’s the movie’s take on the ever-present “love is love” saying that makes it stand out. Acting as a sort of unofficial thesis for the film, Bros takes the idealistic notion that love is a universal experience for everyone, no matter who is loving who and exposes the truth of it by showing the complicated messiness that gay men have experienced when trying to find it amongst their own kind. The fear, loneliness, insecurity, doubt, and pain, it’s all there…but so too, is the hope.

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