"Bros" TIFF Review
In the words of Natalie Portman, Bros is “so gay.”
As the first mainstream studio-released romantic comedy to feature a predominantly LGBTQ+ cast, Bros deserves a great deal of respect. Because after years of being sidelined as the “gay best friend” in films such as My Best Friend’s Wedding, Mean Girls, and The Devil Wears Prada, the time is now for stories that are told by, and for, them. Especially stories that aren’t just about homophobia and gay pain. No, stories celebrating gay culture, warts, and all. Stepping in to fill that void is co-writer and star Billy Eichner, delivering pound-for-pound one of the funniest comedies in years.
Eichner stars as Bobby Leiber, your typical pessimistic New Yorker who only has time for himself and is not afraid to point out all the things wrong with other people. He’s cultivated a pretty good life for himself by writing a string of children's books, hosting a successful podcast, and acting as the director of the nation’s first LGBTQ+ history museum.
But for all his accomplishments, Bobby still hasn’t been able to conquer love, which is illustrated to us by a rather unseemly Tinder hookup that seems to be the peak of his romantic life. All that changes when he meets Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) at a gay club, one that also features a 65-year-old that looks as if “they injected steroids into Dumbledore.” While Bobby’s usual demeanor involves him seeming like he has a stick up his you-know-what, Aaron just goes with the flow (mostly because he’s too scared to act on his own).
And in typical rom-com fashion, these opposites attract. What follows is a string of awkward dates that lead to the good times, followed by a falling out that leads to the bad times, which all culminate in a lovely final moment that puts a nice ribbon on everything.
Sure, you could have read that last sentence and thought to yourself: “What the hell? He just spoiled the movie for me!” And to that, I would say: “Well, what did you expect from a studio rom-com?” Because for all the gay pride it’s (rightfully) waving around, Bros is still another entry in a genre whose clichés have some of the most well-worn in cinema. Even worse, it exudes some of the worst characteristics of its producer, Judd Apatow, who I still haven’t forgiven for pandemic-set The Bubble. Director Nicholas Stoller, also serving as co-writer with Eicher, seems to have been taught at the school of Apatow as he lets a few scenes play out too long, which in turn makes the movie feel much longer than its stated 115-minute runtime.
Even with that macro-level problem, Eichner’s script is still able to do wonders on several micro levels. Take, for instance, Bobby’s dismissal of Hollywood’s sudden openness to queer culture now that they’ve found a way to profit from it. There’s a very clear dig at the “bravery” straight actors exude when playing gay characters in films such as Brokeback Mountain and The Power of the Dog. And in keeping with the country theme, there’s also a running gag about Aaron’s love for Garth Brooks that pays off in spades near the end.
Eichner and Macfarlane have a natural chemistry together, which makes their bits the best parts of the film. Fortunately, there are a lot of those bits, which are often peppered with one-liner zings about their different upbringings and personalities (“They’re like grownup gay Boy Scouts and I’m whatever happened to Evan Hansen!”). Eichner alluded to a possible sequel during the post-screening Q&A for the TIFF world premiere, which, based on how this story ends, I would wholly welcome.
While it breaks boundaries for its wonderful representation of LGBTQ+ actors, Bros can’t always break new ground for the rom-com genre. Still, it’s one of the funniest studio romantic comedies of the past few years and delivers more than enough feel-good moments to make its mark as a cultural moment.