Bros follows Bobby Lieber (Billy Eichner), successful writer and podcaster-turned-curator of the National Museum of LGBTQ+ History and Culture who enjoys his life as a self-reliant single man – and freedom from care (so that he’s never disappointed by the gay dating scene). That is until Bobby meets Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) a meathead estate attorney that doesn’t adhere to Bobby’s own stereotypes – but shares his disdain for vulnerability and monogamy. In spite of their individual differences and romantic reservations, the pair spark and, as their connection grows, Bobby and Aaron are forced to confront the insecurities, shame, and regrets that have formerly prevented them from forming healthy relationships.
Bros was helmed by noted comedy filmmaker Nicholas Stoller who previously directed Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the Neighbors films, and The Five Year Engagement – along with writing and/or producing credits on Trainwreck, The Muppets, and Undeclared, among others. Stoller partnered with Eichner on the Bros script – blending Eichner’s trademark edge and biting wit with Stoller’s mastery of comedic timing mixed with sincerity. Bros doesn’t necessarily break new ground in its formula, following a relatively straightforward series of advances and setbacks for Bobby and Aaron’s relationship; still, the rom-com templating works as subversion – which is an intentional choice here – as the writing team provides an uncompromising and simultaneously charming exploration of gay relationships.
To that end, Bros isn’t just a gay rom-com, it’s a candid exploration (and unabashed celebration) of the innumerable ways that people express and experience love in the modern world and one that acknowledges the countless souls who made it possible to celebrate that love openly – many of who didn’t live long enough to see it. In fact, one of Bros‘ most insightful and self-aware points arises from Bobby’s own struggles with his place in the LGBTQ+ community – as a cisgender white gay man in a world where sexism, racial stereotypes, body dysmorphia, and gender identity, produced extra challenges for his friends to overcome that even he cannot fully understand. In spite of the good that he’s done in the world, Bobby isn’t the “hero” of his story, he’s packed with genuine flaws (not just shortcomings to further the plot) that provide authentic insight into the experiences, both good and bad, that shaped his worldview. The result is a heartwarming and at times challenging but always authentic window into the world that Bobby (and many others) navigate each day.
While some moviegoers might be surprised to hear that Eichner, known best for Funny or Die/truTV‘s “Billy on the Street” skits (along with supporting appearances in everything from Parks and Recreation to Impeachment: American Crime Story), would be leading an introspective romantic comedy, the actor meets the moment. Eichner’s performance is vulnerable and self-aware, in particular in a monologue on the beach in Provincetown, providing several truly gut-wrenching scenes of naked insight inspired by the actor’s own experiences, regrets, and realizations.
Of course, it’s fun to see Eichner lean into the rowdy and opinionated persona that make his comedy so enjoyable – and Bros affords Eichner plenty of opportunities to push limits (and draw hilarious reactions out of supporting characters). That said, it is the more reflective and intimate scenes that have been crafted in his script with Stoller that will endear audiences to the comedian and, hopefully, open doors for Eichner to explore additional drama work in the future.
Macfarlane, who starred in a number of Hallmark TV movies (of which Bros repeatedly pokes fun), leads the supporting cast and plays a great foil, both in comedy and in chemistry, to Eichner. Macfarlane isn’t afforded as many scene-stealing moments of social insight as Eichner but he imbues Aaron with sincerity and heart – ensuring that, in spite of the character’s personal shortcomings, viewers will understand why Bobby is drawn to him and want to root for them as a couple.
Stoller and Eichner made certain the rest of the cast is diverse and representative of the LGBTQ+ community (in fact Bros is the first movie with an all-LGBTQ+ principle cast) – with supporting roles for Ts Madison, Guy Branum, Eve Lindley, Dot-Marie Jones, Jim Rash, Symone, as well as Bowen Yang, and the iconic Harvey Fierstein, just to name a few. Even though many of the actors have portrayed LGBTQ+ characters before, there’s something truly moving about seeing them get to embrace characters in a film that makes an earnest effort to celebrate modern sex, gender, and romance in all their forms.
Ultimately, Bros hews close to its romantic comedy inspirations and audiences will, undoubtedly, be able to anticipate incoming plot beats ahead of time; yet, in this case, a familiar storyline only highlight what’s unique all the more. Eichner and Stoller use their romantic comedy template as an effective framework for juxtaposition – and an earnest exploration of Bobby and Aaron’s ups, downs, and personal revelations. In the end, Bros is packed with equal parts irreverent comedy and universal truth – as well as a clear message for its viewers: love is love.
Bros opens in theaters on September 30th. It runs 115 minutes and is Rated R for strong sexual content, some drug use and language throughout.
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