Right off the top, there is a blurb going around in the marketing campaign for Bros that lays out the fact that this is the first gay romantic comedy to get a wide theatrical release by a major studio as well as the first starring an entirely LGBTQ cast. (the director, Nicholas Stoller as far as I’m aware is cismale, straight.) The film, if nothing else, is a pride banner of inclusivity. That being said, it’s easy for a movie with such precedence to not try that hard, to be devoid of worthwhile content. Things like a good script, believable characters played by competent actors, and something along the lines of a quality message get sacrificed in the name of progress, let’s say.
That’s not the case here though. For one, Judd Apatow is attached as an executive producer, and, like him or not, he’s careful about the kind of comedy he attaches his name to. Additionally, his name is nowhere to be found on the movie posters. Has he aged out of this movie's expected demographic? If not, you’re expecting a raunchy, mildly offensive comedy. Again though, Bros deviates from the Apatow brand.
My guess before going in, based on clips and posters alone, was that Bros would be light, irreverent fun. There are two lead gay characters, but the movie is not bogged down by that fact. I was reminded of Neighbors (a movie also directed by Nicholas Stoller) or the little-seen Trainwreck starring Amy Schumer (Ok, I submit, one Apatow-produced film that he also directs. The guy has his hand in a lot of things.)
My point is that it’s easy for a film like this to just sort of be bad or lack substance. That’s not the case. Bros is funny. It calls to mind great romantic comedies without satirizing them and retains a kind of cynicism or disbelief that enhances the tried and true formula instead of annihilating or dismantling it. It’s also more grounded in reality making the story more believable. And there’s the odd bit of social commentary squeezed into certain scenes that only someone like Billy Eichner can deliver. I also must emphasize that it is light. Very funny and light. With such lightness, you can include the occasional heartwarming or thought-provoking bit. You’ve earned the audience's respect.
Bros takes place partially in New York City, Eichner’s playground as Billy on the Street can attest. Billy plays Bobby, a gay bachelor with a history of one-night stands and awkward Grindr exchanges that have left him jaded and hungrier less for dating and more for his professional pursuits. It’s clear early in the film that Bobby is more enthused about his professional life than he is about his personal one.
Bobby is a curator, one who’s tasked with producing the first National LGBTQ+ History Museum in Manhattan. He shares a conference table with four other outspoken professionals that represent the trans, gay and bisexual communities, an LGBTQ United Nations of sorts assembled to come up with and construct a new and innovative exhibit. Their exchanges are loud, funny, and portray, oh no, actual care and investment in someone’s work life.
While out with a friend, Bobby encounters Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), a shirtless, muscular, presumably mindless 30-something gay man. And while Bobby has dealt with his kind before, something different strikes him in this encounter. Slowly and carefully Bobby and Aaron open up to each other. We find Bobby has trust issues and feels insecure about his looks. While Aaron is miserable at his job and lacks a sense of purpose in his life. They each obviously have something to learn from one another. Bobby can be made to feel desired and loved while Aaron can find the courage and inner strength needed to pursue his own dreams. I’ll save the somewhat humorous profession he comes up with for those still anxious to see the movie.
There are a number of sex scenes in Bros. Some were more graphic than others but not much outright nudity. More suggestive than explicit.
The movie is marketed as a comedy and indeed it is a comedy. There are a lot of gay, progressive jokes that feel current and edgy but not hurtful. I was not bored. The laughs are not at the expense of the characters but more just the occasional peek into the mind of Eichner who’s a little kooky and a lot funny. But what the movie succeeds at, and what I’ve suggested thus far, is something more meaningful than a ‘bro’ comedy. The film has an emotional core that earns the audience’s favor. The emotional bit might be hinted at in the film’s marketing but it's explored fully in the film itself.
Bros has not been too successful at the box office. After opening on 3,350 screens nationwide, it only grossed $4.8 million. Eichner’s quoted as saying “everyone who isn’t a homophobic weirdo” should go see the film. Personally, I think the film’s lack of success has less to do with its homosexual content than it just being a poorly marketed movie that lacks star power. The movie may yet find the larger audience Eichner so eagerly craves.
This might sound silly but the film is educational in a way. A lot of what Billy talks about in his observations are relatable. He’s not, at least, actively trying to alienate his audience.
This is a love story between two gay guys. It’s also Eichner’s first crack at a movie-length performance of his own which isn’t just him running around lower Manhattan with a microphone and dressed-down celebrity accomplice shouting at unsuspecting pedestrians. Although I do enjoy Billy on the Street and appreciated the promotions he’s been doing for this movie with Paul Rudd and his army of lesbians.
The movie also has some great shots of Provincetown, the quaint, historically gay community along the further reaches of Cape Cod. And there are funny cameos by Bowen Yang and Debra Messing as herself.
Bros proves that even with a little tinkering, the rom-com formula works. It should inspire creatives to borrow more from what's been most successful in Hollywood. Honestly, it doesn’t matter much these days if a movie does not do well at the box office. Eventually, Bros will find its audience, if it hasn’t already, through on-demand, streaming services, and video releases. Movie theaters are soon becoming a thing of the past. Which I guess is unfortunate because comedies like Bros are fun to see with a crowd of people. But you take what you can get.