(from left) Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) and Bobby (Billy Eichner) in Bros, co-written, produced and directed by Nicholas Stoller.

Bros – movie review

The gay romantic comedy Bros is very funny and has broad mainstream appeal as it follows the formula of those classic rom-coms like When Harry Met Sally.

Bobby Leiber (Billy Eichner) hosts a podcast called “the Eleventh Brick at Stonewall” that explores queer history and issues of importance for the gay community. He is also on the executive board of the planned new LBTQI history museum that will be opening its doors in New York City in a few weeks and is desperate to find a final donor who can bring his vision to fruition. But everyone on the board has their own issues and they are all at loggerheads over which direction the exhibits should take. Each member of the board wants to extend their own representation through the exhibits. Bobby is somewhat opinionated and overly sarcastic and often rubs his colleagues the wrong way.

One night at a local nightclub Bobby connects briefly with Aaron Shephard (Luke Macfarlane). They seemingly have little in common – Bobby is determinedly single, unattached and uses gay dating apps like Grindr without much luck, while the hunky Aaron is fit and straight in appearance and works as an estate lawyer. Aaron is described by Bobby’s friend Henry (Guy Branum) as hot but boring. The two exchange glances and hit it off and flirt, but neither is willing to commit to a long-term relationship. And it is not always smooth sailing for the pair as they negotiate the tricky world of dating and romance in gay New York before they can find their happy ending.

Eichner (best known for his role in Parks and Recreation) and director Nicholas Stoller provide the screenplay. Stoller has previously directed raunchy adult comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Bad Neighbours. But their different backgrounds make for a great mix in shaping the material, although it at times appears a little episodic in nature. Bros is something of a passion project for Eichner, and the script is pointedly political at times. Bros has been produced by Judd Apatow, king of raunchy comedies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Bridesmaids. A couple of sex scenes are quite raunchy, but Stoller has reined in many of his usual excesses and crass visuals.

The film is well written with plenty of laugh out loud moments and some very funny lines, but it also has a lot to say about gender politics, queer culture, relationships, tolerance, acceptance. The script also seems self-aware, and Eichner has put a lot of himself into both the characters and the scenarios. All of the cast and crew come from LGBTQ backgrounds, which is a first for a film from a major Hollywood studio and marks an important and step for positive queer representation on screen. The script plays around with gay stereotypes and the inability of men to express their true feelings and be vulnerable, which gives the material some emotional depth and resonance. The film also works in many cultural references and gay touchstones, which should touch a chord with gay audiences in particular but even straight audiences should find plenty to like here.

The performances of the two leads are terrific, there is great chemistry between them as they create a nice dynamic. Eichner, who has a self-deprecating style, is allowed to show more depth than usual here and he reveals a different side to his usual persona, showing doubt and uncertainty and vulnerability. Macfarlane exudes charm and warmth and is immediately likeable as the more introspective Aaron. He provides a nice contrast to the acerbic, cynical and at times unlikeable Bobby. The film also serves up a send up of those cheesy family friendly films from the Hallmark network, which adds a touch of irony here as Macfarlane himself has appeared in over a dozen such films in his career. But Eichner and Stoller have also created some interesting and quirky secondary characters who add flavour to the mix. Cameos from several stars, including Kristin Chenowith, Harvey Fierstein, and a foul-mouthed Debra Messing (Will & Grace), add to the pleasure of the material. Messing seems to have fun sending up her own image.

Much of the action takes place in New York City, and it looks warm and sunny thanks to the cinematography of Brandon Trost (Dear Evan Hansen), who captures the essence of gay New York.

Bros is a classic and very funny rom-com that should have broad commercial appeal.

Greg King

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