Nicholas Stoller’s LGBTQ comedy Bros is the funniest film Hollywood has released in years. Straight up. We don’t need to get into whether it’s truly the first gay rom-com from a major studio to be released wide in theaters. This film has been heavily touted as just that but it doesn’t need to be groundbreaking—it just needs to be good, and fortunately, it is. Very good.
Co-writer Billy Eichner stars as Bobby, a journalist by trade (complete with a podcast) who lands a job as the director of the world’s first (?) LGBTQ History Museum; its opening night event provides the movie’s ticking clock plot device.
Bobby has a decent life full of friends and occasional Grindr hookups, but he feels unfulfilled. There’s something missing…love. But he considers himself emotionally unavailable so he has resigned himself to the life of a bachelor.
Enter Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), a very hot and very ripped estate planner who prefers group sex and is often brought into other couples’ bedrooms as a fun-but-disposable third. The two of them meet on the dance floor in one of those moments where the music practically slows down as they eyeball each other from across the room.
It takes some time, but before long, Bobby and Aaron fall into bed together. The question is whether they’ll ever dare to risk everything and let themselves fall in love.
The film features a tried-and-true rom-com structure and fairly familiar genre tropes, so there aren’t many surprises in terms of the narrative, but I actually found comfort in that. I mean, isn’t that why we see those kinds of movies in the first place? That Bros largely colors within the lines of the genre actually emphasizes that gay and straight relationships aren’t all that different. Sure, there are differences—monogamy isn’t a given, as is the presumption in most straight couplings for one—but love is the common bond that ties us all and this is a movie that aims to unite rather than divide.
In fact, for all its LGBTQ tub-thumping, Bros actually feels like a movie that was intentionally made palatable for straights… not that there’s anything wrong with that. The film even has Bobby mocking that very idea when he gets a meeting with a movie producer, though he knows full well that that’s the closet mission of this movie, and on that front, I think it delivers. This is the kind of crowd-pleasing comedy that straight couples can absolutely enjoy together… so could a group of straight bros. There’s nothing that’s terribly graphic, and even if there were, so what? Then again, while I’d like to imagine that there’s no way straight people could possibly be offended by this film, I’d be lying by omission if I didn’t tell you that when I exited the theater, the very first conversation I had involved a couple of older colleagues who thought there was too much “gay stuff,” as they put it. I’ve just never heard a movie be accused of having too much “straight stuff,” and a movie about a gay romance that chickens out when it comes to sex wouldn’t really feel like a step forward.
Judd Apatow lent his producing muscle to the movie, and Eichner makes for the perfect Apatowian leading man, full of neuroses and insecurity—though he’s also someone who knows himself very well and wants to change for the better. Eichner doesn’t bend over backward to make us like Bobby, he just wants us to be able to relate to him, and that’s why he labors so hard to make him feel real, constantly complaining and comparing himself to others in a self-deprecating way that masks the kernels of truth beneath it. And the kernels of truth are plenty, from a “got pics?” texting sequence early on to a killer monologue that Eichner delivers in its second half.
Macfarlane has been around for a while, carving out a career for himself in Hallmark movies, but this is a breakout performance for the 42-year-old. He’s kind of playing the “straight man” here, if you will. But at least Eichner allows us to see Aaron’s work life and his family, making the character more three-dimensional than simply a beefcake with a heart of gold. I think he delivers a charming, winning performance that should open up some interesting doors for him in the future.
To me, it’s the little details that make this film so funny and truthful, and though it gets a little uneven in its second half as it barrels toward its inevitable conclusion, the script manages to reconcile with hookup culture in a fun way as well as address several serious topics — some via Bobby’s co-workers, who function as a fierce Greek chorus of lesbians, bisexuals, and trans people. Those characters bring the fire, and they’re played by a hysterical supporting cast that includes TS Madison, Miss Lawrence, Eve Lindley, Dot-Marie Jones, and Jim Rash.
Apatow has previously taken specific comic personalities, such as Amy Schumer and Pete Davidson, and given them their own theatrical vehicles. Bros actually feels like the most successful of the bunch. Between Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Neighbors, and this film, Stoller is putting together a strong comedy resume. Meanwhile, it is indeed refreshing to see a movie where gay people aren’t reduced to being victims of violence or some other horrifying trauma, and they’re just allowed to exist as people with messy lives—like everyone. But in this film, it’s really, really funny.