A heartfelt, hilarious classic Hollywood-style romantic comedy, Bros (★★★★☆) doesn’t screw around with the formula of forebears like When Harry Met Sally or You’ve Got Mail.
Rather, the movie — produced by Judd Apatow, directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and co-written by Stoller and star Billy Eichner — delivers fresh takes on tropes that worked for those films, while trafficking in jokes and situations they never touched.
With tart dialogue and earnest intent, Bros leans into the romance of the giddy first kiss, and the determined dash across town to declare one’s love right now in front of an audience of awww-ing friends who will dance out the scene in a joyful montage.
The filmmakers’ attention to genre detail includes layering Bros with that rare, underrated quality of a good romantic comedy: a believable resistance to romance. To stir the pot, somebody or something has to be standing in the way of happily ever after.
Here, the culprits are our lead pair of lovebirds, commitment-shy New Yorkers Bobby (Eichner) and Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), who at least commit to a text-assisted dance of hooking up and sort of dating, after meeting at a club.
Their rocky progress towards a climax, or several climaxes, follows a familiar rom-com path, but with both the rom and the com rendered through the specific lens of Bobby and Aaron’s modern gay experience. Not that Bros has reinvented the gay romantic comedy — just ask the makers of this summer’s saucy gay streaming rom-com Fire Island.
But Bros will have a chance to succeed in theaters on a scale of distribution no other gay romantic comedy has attempted.
And we’re not counting the coming-out comedy hit In & Out, which is about a straight man realizing he’s gay. Bobby and Aaron are advanced gays — out, proud, and down for poppers and group sex, as the film depicts on more than one steamy occasion.
Besides its laugh-out-loud precision at slicing and dicing hookup culture, gym etiquette, and in-fighting among the rainbow coalition, the movie pointedly debunks “love is love is love” as just a useful myth made up by the LGBTQ community to fool straight people into treating us with fairness.
As Bobby will tell anyone who will listen, love is not love.
Queer people — gay men, in particular, even those who are married — approach sex, relationships, and monogamy from myriad non-traditional angles. Hence, the movie’s unapologetic embrace of foursomes and partners who play together, jokes about a gender reveal orgy and a hookup app for gays who just want to talk about famous actresses and then go to bed.
Stoller might over-light the sex scenes, but he keeps the quips and physical hijinks bouncing along steadily. The script judiciously spreads punchlines throughout the solid supporting cast of sassy friends and co-workers, including Jim Rash, Ts Madison, Miss Lawrence, Dot-Marie Jones, and Eve Lindley as Bobby’s bickering colleagues on a museum planning committee.
Bobby, who receives an LGBTQ media award for Cis White Gay Man of the Year early in the film, also has just been appointed director of the planned National Museum of LGBTQ+ History and Culture. That storyline affords a handful of opportunities to dole out queer history lessons that range from beautifully enlightening to shamelessly didactic.
Much more enlightening are the film’s portrayal of Bobby and Aaron’s issues with masculinity, and how their biases about body types and physical appearance play into their romance. We’ve seen films like Fire Island also tackle those stark realities of gay male courtship, and here the constant focus on Aaron’s (i.e, Macfarlane’s) chiseled physique genuinely serves the story.
Only a guy who looked like Aaron, the film suggests, could get away with his infuriating habit of ghosting Bobby all the time. But they both bring their share of flaws to the table, which is real, and just part of the fun of following this grown-ass cinema romance as it helps move the genre forward one bold bottom joke at a time.
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