Bros (Review) – Billy Eichner Makes Rom-Com History

DIRECTOR: Nicholas Stoller

CAST: Billy Eichner, Luke Macfarlane, Ts Madison, Monica Raymund, Guillermo Díaz, Guy Branum, Amanda Bearse, Jim Rash, Bowen Yang, Miss Lawrence, Harvey Fierstein, Symone, Eve Lindley, D’Lo Srijaerajah, Benito Skinner, Peter Kim, Dot-Marie Jones, Becca Blackwell, Brock Ciarlelli, Kristin Chenoweth, Debra Messing, Justin Covington

RUNNING TIME: 115 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A commitment-phobe (Eichner) finds himself falling in love with a more masculine man (Macfarlane)…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

By logic, the world should be more than ready for a major studio film exclusively featuring LGBTQ+ identifying talent, both in front of and behind the camera. However, the surprising underperformance at the US box office, as well as the shameful review-bombing by online homophobes who hadn’t even seen it, suggests that a film like Bros is still very much an anomaly in a world that still has a long way to go towards tolerance and acceptance of the gay community.

That’s a shame, because Bros is not only a pretty good movie, one that’s often very funny and frighteningly honest about the gay experience in America, but in the grander scheme of rom-coms that execute the well-worn formula competently enough, it’s something of a game-changer – though don’t expect too much deviation from the familiar conventions.

The film, from director Nicholas Stoller, stars Billy Eichner (who also co-wrote the movie with Stoller) as Bobby, a single 40-year-old man in New York who has made a name for himself with a no-holes-barred podcast where he vents about his life, his experiences as a gay writer and personality, and his empty dating life, which mostly consists of quick hook-ups with other guys on Grindr. He is currently chairing a committee that is organising the opening of a breakthrough LGBTQ+ museum, but soon his mind wanders onto different things, namely a handsome guy named Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) who he runs into at a club. Upon their first encounter, it’s clear that neither guy has much in common; Bobby is pretty uptight and outspoken about everything to a fault, whereas Aaron is more the kind of guy you’d find in a macho fraternity than a shirtless all-male revenue. Both, however, are united by the fact that they’re pretty reluctant to commit to anyone, and so as they embark on a whirlwind romance they find themselves questioning what it is they really want not just from each other, but from life in general.

Eichner’s film – because let’s face it, this is HIS film, more than even director and co-writer Stoller – carries strong shades of Nora Ephron and Woody Allen, with observant and anecdotal dialogue that often points out the grave irony in a lot of everyday relationships, not to mention direct references to Ephron movies like You’ve Got Mail (during a texting scene with voiceover that’s almost exactly like the one in Ephron’s film). Eichner, however, has enough of his own energy and style to really stand out as his own unique voice, more often than not landing some incredibly funny one-liners – there are some that had me laughing way louder than I probably should have in my reasonably packed screening, like one that references a certain Evan Hanson – that are delivered impeccably by a bright ensemble cast, led of course by Eichner himself. He also reveals himself to be a pretty tender writer and performer at times, particularly with a later monologue about measuring his own experiences with those of many other gay people throughout history who weren’t so fortunate. In between all of that, Eichner delivers a solid romantic story, one where you really do feel the connection between him and co-star Macfarlane, and where it isn’t too afraid to make either of them less pleasant than traditional rom-com leads on more than one occasion.

The movie is highly enjoyable, often scoring big laughs to match its rather big heart, but Bros does stick to a certain formula that might disappoint viewers hoping for this of all films to truly do its own thing. Like with any rom-com with this familiar structure (so, most of them, then), it’s all about the execution, and Bros does many of its rom-com conventions well, but it is familiar nonetheless, and anyone who goes into this thinking that they’re getting something different when it comes to these types of films – aside from the gender and sexuality of its two lead romantics – will still probably enjoy the film regardless, but perhaps not be as wowed with the storytelling as they might like.

If you’re willing to let familiarity slide just this once, though, then Bros is a hearty rom-com that knows what buttons to press, which nerves to push, and how to make its audience feel overwhelming happiness for its two leads as they possibly, maybe, sort of find love with each other. Yeah, it sucks that it’s not getting as much attention as it should, but with the power of home entertainment and VOD, I have a feeling that the love for this film will last for quite a while yet.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Bros is a heartfelt and often very funny LGBTQ+ rom-com that is spearheaded by star and co-writer Billy Eichner’s hilarious and sometimes tender narrative voice, which presents a solid romantic plot that unfolds within a reliable, if somewhat familiar, rom-com formula.

Bros will be released in cinemas nationwide on Friday 28th October 2022 – click here to find a screening near you!

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