Bros is the brainchild of comedian Billy Eichner and is being promoted as the first major studio romantic comedy starring two gay characters (and produced by the producing king of comedy Judd Apatow no less). With such a strong narrative behind its production, there’s a lot riding on its need to succeed, and despite its strong allusions to other rom-com classics and Eichner’s strong lead, Bros falls short of being the quintessential blockbuster that it could have been by leaning into some of the cliches that it would otherwise try to evoke.
Bobby is a New Yorker who hosts his podcast on LGBTQIA+ topics and is recently elevated to the role of director for the nation’s first LGBTQIA+ history museum. He’s headstrong, believes in his independence, and claims the gay hook-up culture is shallow and stupid, and perfectly suitable for his needs.
All of this is until he meets Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) at a gay club, a lawyer who seems emotionally unavailable and someone way out of Bobby’s league. As their worlds circulate and their personalities are drawn and pushed away from each other, the film follows traditional story arcs of romantic comedies of drama, laughs, and an emotional finale.
What will attract most people to the film is the aforementioned love story, yet the film’s strongest sequences are that of Bobby’s involvement with the museum. Issues of queer history, community, representation, and acceptance are talked about between pillars of the LGBTQIA+ community, with plenty of jokes peppered throughout. However, the film often uses these characters like tropes and doesn’t allow them to feel like real, genuine people.
Eichner’s humor and wit are apparent through the film’s dialogue and observations on gay culture, especially in exploring central social issues for those who may be unfamiliar and not “in the know”. Other modern references and appearances conjure smiles when sandwiched between queer history explorations and discussions. The best moments of all are when he has a go at big companies jumping on the queer bandwagon now that “it’s everywhere”.
Director Nicholas Stoller allows the film to move along briskly, never spending too much time on a sequence than necessary, but in doing so doesn’t allow for character depth and leaves them undeveloped. Eichner too presents a sanitized version of what being gay in the Western world is right now and makes it palatable for audiences. But this also undermines the reality of queer life by restricting it to the boundaries of traditional romantic storytelling.
While Eichner tries to subvert the tropes of the genre, there are still two cis, conventionally attractive white men at the centre of the narrative, which undermines his intentions. If he were to have highlighted another gay couple in the narrative, it would have felt more inclusive and representative.
For a Hollywood-backed film, Bros hits the marks. It’s funny, heartwarming, and made for all audiences. But its work to do so is also not truly honest to group it represents and falls short of an unabashed, unique piece of work.