In Bros, Billy Eichner and Nicholas Stoller have created an overly cheesy gay romcom full of brilliant one-liners.
Are romcoms making a comeback? Some might argue that they never left, but there seems to be a new wave of romcoms that salute the classics from the 80s and 90s. If Ticket to Paradise was safe and nostalgic, Bros is its naughtier, liberal cousin.
Billy Eichner plays Bobby, a successful and foul-mouthed podcaster preparing to open the world’s first LGBTQ+ museum in New York. He’s not really dating; he’s more of a Grindr hook-up kind of guy. That is, until he meets Aaron, the dreamy beefcake with a heart of gold, and the two hit it off. Both are unwilling to enter a relationship, but could that mythical beast of true love still exist in this day and age?
Bros has widely been marketed as the first-ever gay romcom (a gaycom?) with a principal cast made up entirely of LGBTQ+ actors. This alone is a pretty good reason to see Bros, but it has a lot of merits that reach outside that historical status. It’s easy to reduce a piece of art to its political achievements (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù had some interesting things to say about colour-blind casting, for example). Still, Bros succeeds – and sometimes fails – on its own terms as a comedy, first and foremost.
Thankfully, Bros is very funny, and the dialogue is sharp and snappy, performed with impeccable comedic timing. It’s the kind of film that comes alive when watched with a big, enthusiastic audience. Eichner’s signature quick-fire style is all over the film, so if he’s not your cup of tea, Bros probably won’t change that.
As much as Bros wants to be groundbreaking and revelatory, it’s surprisingly traditional. It’s delightfully sex-positive to a point – group sex is treated as a joke instead of a consensual sexual act which would have been a much more progressive way to handle it if you’re in the business of making something new and fresh – but when it comes to the big L-word, Bros is just like every other romcom out there. Maybe that’s the point; maybe Bros aggressively wants to show that films about gay people in love can be just like their more successful heterosexual counterparts.
Eichner really shines in the lead role. His chemistry with Luke Macfarlane’s Aaron is natural and sexy, but while the supporting cast are all fantastic, they’re also thinly written, which is frustrating. Bobby’s museum committee is a wonderful group of characters, none of whom are allowed more than one or two one-liners to prove their worth.
At two hours, Bros is stretched almost too thin and is constantly in danger of becoming self-congratulatory. Thankfully, Eichner’s pure charm keeps things moving. The script, written by Stoller and Eichner, is refreshingly straightforward about things. While Bros is distinctly, specifically gay, it’s not a film solely for gay people; I think we can all relate to those awkward dating app conversations and even more awkward hook-ups.
There is so much to enjoy in Bros. It’s never quite as new and exciting as it claims to be, but I laughed heartily. Bros tickled this critic’s funny bone, whether it was one of the endless pop-culture references or the disarming honesty about relationships. Love it or hate it, Bros makes a convincing case for more varied, more sex-positive romcoms in Hollywood.
Bros screens at this year’s BFI London Film Festival and is released in cinemas on October 28.