Bros, a ground-breaking new romantic comedy, is the first Hollywood studio-backed picture to feature gay leads playing gay characters, with the supporting cast coming almost entirely from the LGBTQ community. It’s an important moment for representation on-screen and surprisingly political in nature.
Directed by Nicholas Stoller and produced by Judd Apatow, it’s still abundantly clear that this is lead actor Billy Eichner’s show – his passion project. Eichner’s heart and soul has been poured into the script he penned with his director and wishes to get across how sick and tired he is of gay stereotypes in movies: that it’s 2022, and LGBTQ people need to be seen and heard on their own terms.
In Bros, Eichner stars as grumpy Bobby Leiber, the host of a podcast and beleaguered director of a proposed national LGBTQ museum struggling to get funding. Content to be single and engage in dating app hook-ups, one night he meets Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) and their lives get complicated. Both are commitment-phobes but grow close and find themselves, to their initial horror and confusion, a couple.
If Bros is revolutionary in its casting, it does borrow heavily from the tried and tested rom-com template, the storytelling heavily signposted, every beat known off by heart. Thank goodness, then, that Eichner and Stoller’s screenplay is not only heavily-loaded with gags (ranging from wry chuckles to full-on belly laughs), but also has a serious subtext. Not every joke hits the mark (Eichner’s quips occasionally fail to land), but the scenario-based humour – such as a nerdy guy trying to join a threesome, or a disastrous dinner in a musical theatre restaurant – are comedy gold.
The underling seriousness means Bros has no time for going over or rehashing the past. There’s no camp best friend sidekick or gal pal who shares her gay best friend’s dating woes (which makes Will & Grace star Debra Messing’s cameo even funnier). Eichner is on a bold mission to redefine screen depictions of LGBTQ people and do it on their own terms, without placating anybody. This is potent stuff for a mainstream movie, and while Eichner’s rant-based anger – which has long been his brand – can sometimes drift into self-obsession and self-pity, what Bros is doing is not asking – but demanding – space for marginalised people in society.
Bros’ militancy is surprising. This is not a standard-issue fluffy romcom after all, even though it follows a well-known formula. The film also isn’t interested in making things palatable to the straight community either. The inspired and inspiring story frame around the LGBTQ museum and references to the 1969 Stonewall riots makes the film fiercely political: a reminder to keep fighting; a Faulkner-style “The past is never past” call-to-arms.
Martyn Conterio | @martynconterio