Gemma Creagh examines the bond of Bros.
Bros is the clever, self aware romcom that poses the tough questions on love. Such as how much should one shave to take the perfect ass pic? And what’s a better way to end a romantic date than with an orgy with two complete strangers?
Billy Eichner plays it close to home as Bobby Lieber, a passionate podcast host with a sharp tongue and a permanently donned bitch face. As an activist he’s reached the heights of his career, receiving his Cis White Gay Man of the Year Award as he heads up New York’s First LGBTQ+ museum. However, his personal life leaves something to be desired. Sitting around a table of mostly happy coupled – and thrupled – friends, Bobby insincerely laments on what a joy it is to be single, admitting he’s never had a boyfriend and how happy he is about that – diligently queueing up his own “meet cute”.
At a gay nightclub, amidst shirtless hunks and flashing lights, Bobby meets his prince charming in the deeply dashing, monosyllabic Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane). Bobby dubs this ripped adonis as “boring” in an failed attempt at flirting, and the pair bond over drinks while making awkwardly sweet, surprisingly authentic smalltalk. They shout over the music about how gays are stupid. Alas, the romance is put on hold for the evening when Aaron informs Bobby he’s on a promise with a pair of equally chiselled gym bros, before disappearing into the mass of dancing bodies – taking his washboard abs with him.
From ranchy roughhousing in the park to subdued strolls around the city, a series of very romantic non-dates see Bobby and Aaron begin a hesitant courtship of sorts. However, the inevitable conflict ensues when both realise they are starting to feel something real. And this sends both parties spiralling. Working in a job he hates, Aaron struggles in balancing his present queer life against his former hyper-masculine small-town self. Meanwhile the take-no-shit persona Bobby has created to survive – even thrive – leaves him deeply insecure in this new vulnerable space. With Aaron’s parents coming to the town, and the museum losing one of their core funders, can this unlikely relationship go the distance?
While Bros goes to great lengths to lambast those infamous and beloved Hallmark films, calling out their latest LGBTQ+ offerings as cheesy cash grabs – it also leans right in to that classic romantic aesthetic, delivering twinkly New York at Christmas vibes draped over the the standard “will-they-won’t-they” structure and finished off with a classic grand gesture set piece. What elevates this film, and really delivers the best moments with heart and humour – is the raunchy no-holes-barred (pardon the pun) examination of this world of male, gay sex, such as Bobby navigating the politics of Grindr.
The Apatow force is strong in Bros. Director Nicholas Stoller cut his teeth with some of the most enjoyable and well observed rom-com of the era, The Five-Year Engagement, and Neighbors. Stoller wrote for Judd Apatow’s college comedy Undeclared and co-wrote Apatow’s Fun with Dick and Jane. His directorial debut was Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It was on his series Friends from College where Stoller and Billy Eichner began to discuss the possibility of a studio gay romcom. There seems to be a great deal of Eichner himself woven into the plot; his struggles summarised in one powerful introspective monologue towards the end of act two.
The main theme about consolidating identity means at the film’s core, the two main antagonists are Aaron and Bobby themselves. This is why their chemistry is so important, and why Eichner and Macfarlane’s restrained, honest performances manage to keep us onside, despite their self destructive behaviour. If there was one issue, it’s that Bros often abandons this, in an attempt to boil the ocean of queerness. The crux of the story, gets sidelined for a silly monologue, joke or observation. All of which are – in their own right – hilarious and delivered by the crème de la crème of LGBTQ+ performers, but it just doesn’t integrate fully with the rest of the tone. Having said that, I would happily have languished in the world of Bros for a season or two and followed up on those dropped arcs of those silly B and C characters.
Bros is in cinemas from 28th October 2022.