(2022, 115 min)
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Universal Pictures proudly presents the first romantic comedy from a major American studio about two gay men (maybe... possibly... probably?) stumbling towards love. Maybe. They're both very busy! Billy Eichner stars as Bobby Leiber, a podcaster and writer assigned to author a romantic comedy about a gay couple that also appeals to straight audiences. Instead, Bobby is more interested in detailing how LGBTQ+ relationships differ from straight relationships by portraying an unadulterated version of gay romance. When he meets Aaron, an alluring, almost "too good to be true" jock played by Luke Macfarlane, he suddenly finds himself questioning his identity and long-held views on love. From Eichner's ferocious comic mind and the hit-making brilliance of filmmakers Nicholas Stoller and Judd Apatow, Bros is a smart, swoony and deeply heartfelt gay rom-com about finding sex, love and romance amidst all the madness.
As long as there’s been cinema, there have been romantic comedies. They’re so ubiquitous that it takes a truly monumental effort to bring attention to the genre again. While Bros was not the first wide release rom-com to tackle a gay storyline, it’s the first to have a pair of gay leading men in the top roles.
The story follows podcaster Bobby Lieber (Billy Eichner), a man who claims he’s not looking for a relationship, but always sees the potential in ones that never work out. Bobby also volunteers at a local LGBTQ museum where the board is trying to come up with the funding to complete their project, most notably an incomplete segment of the museum the other board members continuously fight over. In his off hours, he visits a local bar and meets gym bunny Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane). While there’s an instant attraction, neither sees the other as their ideal mate, yet they can’t help pursuing a relationship.
Their personalities barely mesh with Bobby outspoken, intellectual, and unapologetic and Aaron reserved, uncomplicated, and insular. Bobby doesn’t think Aaron should be afraid to let his queer flag fly and Aaron wants to keep his sexuality a downplayed element of his personality. Neither thinks they deserve happiness and are unwittingly sabotaging their own contentedness, finding anything they can in the other to certify that their relationship won’t go anywhere. It’s this bullheadedness that threatens their partnership and only if they can take time to see life from the other’s perspective, might they just make it through the tough times.
Eichner co-wrote the screenplay with director Nicholas Stoller and while their film is just as unapologetic as Bobby’s character is, its core sensibilities about finding satisfaction in a chaotic and regimented world make it feel important and engaging. Eichner’s performance is at bit too far on the brash side, but he sells Bobby’s slow, but eventual maturation from the know-it-all queer firebrand to the more contemplative, open, and loving figure we find at the end. Macfarlane doesn’t have as much growing to do, he embodies a core segment of the gay community that finds labels unimportant to the human being in front of them. He’s not your typical dumb jock even if given ample opportunity to present that façade. Their chemistry is palpable helping the audience appreciate the organic way they ultimately come together.
Bros is perhaps too much about Eichner and his character’s personality and not enough about finding love when one least expects it. While the film does a fine job taking romantic comedy tropes and giving them the gay treatment, they remain tropes. A film like this doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, but slapping on the gay label without elevating or enriching the genre only serves to diminish the work. It’s a film that has many hopes and dreams, but never escapes its own stylistic devices. That itself is what keeps the film from feeling fresh or significant, which is a shame.
-- Reviewed By Wesley Lovell, Film Reviews (http://www.cinemasight.com)