'Bros' review: Billy Eichner's gay romantic comedy is heartfelt and hilarious
Courtesy of Universal Pictures
The first theatrical exclusive, R-rated studio comedy in recent memory, the Billy Eicnher led, Nicholas Stoller directed and Judd Apatow produced “Bros,” which is a gay rom-com, certainly has plenty of pressure riding on its (hopeful) commercial success. Not only will it be a litmus test for where R-rated comedies stand coming out of the pandemic (where overall diminishing returns has forced studios to reevaluate what goes to theaters versus streaming); but it’s also the first openly gay, LGBTQ+ inclusive studio backed picture of its kind, getting the type of marketing spend and budget reserved only for four quadrant pictures.
It’s a relief then, at least, I can tell you “Bros” is certainly worth a trip to the movies and lives up to the lofty (and unfair) expectations thrusted upon it. “Bros” is also a keen reminder of the power shared communal experiences manifest: laughing together in a theater full of strangers was something greatly missed these last two years, and Eichner and crew have tailored a well-versed comedy that, despite its subject matter, should have no problem reaching a broad audience. It’s a laugh out loud riot with a sweet “When Harry Met Sally” undertone.
Finally making the leap to leading man status after a slew of supporting work and giving the online crowd a heaping dose of manic energy with his popular “Billy on the Street” series, Eicnher is both affectionate and brutally honest in “Bros” who, through his screenplay he co-wrote, explores the difficulties and tribulations of making gay art in an often heterosexual dominated society. He plays Bobby, a version of himself with a few different quirks. Whereas Eichner is a successful actor in real life, Bobby is a podcaster who laments, but also prides himself on being a single, self-succient Jewish gay man in New York City, That doesn’t mean he won’t engage in quick Grindr hook-ups or booty calls (of which the film hilariously depicts), it’s his lack of emotional commitment that sets him apart from his fellow gay brethren (or so he thinks).
Everything changes when he meets Aaaron (Luke Macfarlane - incredible), an estate planner who has more to offer than just your run-of-the-mill good looks, something that takes Bobby by surprise. It forces the two, who are both stingy about what the implication of a relationship means, to balance their romantic interests with reality, and the result offers far more deeper reflections on what it means to be a gay man circa 2022 and the results of growing up in an environment non-condusive to their sexual orentation. At one point, Eichner gives an impassioned monologue about the trauma he faced as child and he’s incessant need to be “good enough.”
Stoller, best known for “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” is a good fit for the material, able to seamlessly develop these characters and provide excellent comedic sequences (a group orgy gets interrupted by an unwanted guest or how bros interact at the gym) while balancing how timely and important a narrative of this caliber is. Sure, “Bros” follows the usual romantic comedy mainstays that, quite literally, mirrors “When Harry Met Sally,” but it’s done in such a tasteful way (including how it skewers both the LGTBQ+ and straight communities) it’s easy to forgive those mild stepbacks. As is the lengthy run-time which has become a staple of the Apatow brand, but thankfully this one clocks just under the two hour mark.
There’s a variety of scene-stealing cameos and touching tributes poured throughout “Bros” that’ll keep viewers engaged alongside the familiar mixture of genuine and wholesome belly laughs. In addition, the social commentary is a refreshing departure from what’s usually expected of movies made on this scale and it’s one’s hope “Bros” finds long-term success as it marks a historic moment in mainstream and queer cinema.
It’s about time.
BROS opens in theaters Friday, September 30th.