Bros is a 2022 American romantic comedy film directed by Nicholas Stoller from a screenplay he co-wrote with Billy Eichner, who also stars and executive produces. Stoller and Judd Apatow are producers on the film. The film also stars Bowen Yang, Harvey Fierstein, Luke Macfarlane, Ts Madison, Monica Raymund, Guillermo Díaz, Guy Branum, Amanda Bearse, and Jim Rash.
Hollywood now has a major LGBT rom-com alternative to movies like Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle” after around 120 years. Hell, it’s taken just as long to create a popular LGBTQ film that doesn’t deal with trauma, anguish, or systematic homophobia. Enter “Bros,” a sarcastic, occasionally raunchy meet-cute for the Grindr era, written by and starring actor Billy Eichner and directed by Nicholas Stoller (or here, a dating app cheekily called Zellweger).
The fact that the entire cast is gay, gay, gay is truly groundbreaking. and that’s basically where it ends. The outline of the screenplay is generally standard, which is a good thing. Many of us genuinely mean that when we say that we want to be seen, what we want is a gay remake of the rom-coms that we loved in the 1990s, when the genre was at its peak. “Bros” is appropriate.
Eichner plays rapier-witted, perpetually single podcast host Bobby Leiber, fusing his frenetic “Billy on the Street” persona with the more self-deprecating misanthrope of his superb Hulu series “Difficult People.” When Bobby receives the prize for “Cis White Gay Man of the Year,” the movie instantly draws attention to its own limited window of privilege. Bobby is adored for his frank observations on homosexual society; he doesn’t believe in sentimental platitudes like “love is love is love” or “it gets better.” At one point, he says, “Love is not love.” Gay males are distinctive.
Indeed, that sets the stage for “Bros” to depict the lonely, cyclical details of gay male single life in the 21st century, such as the endless “Hey, what’s up?” texts that are exchanged via text without any further action from either party, or the hookup that starts with you being immediately underwhelmed by the man at the door who is removing his shirt before making eye contact.
Bobby is one of those persistent users of dating apps. As the self-appointed expert on homosexual hookups and dating in the modern world, he covers his loneliness while being gloomy about his prospects. When the muscular, remarkably well-groomed proto-daddy Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) enters frame, all of that disintegrates. When dancing or flailing one night at a club, Bobby comes into Aaron, who is obviously a step above him, and strikes up a romance.
Aaron, who has a miserable but lucrative career administering wills and estates, is to Bobby nothing more than a slab of vanilla man candy. A spark develops between the unlikely pair, giving rise to optimism—not for misanthropes like Bobby, who aren’t perfect 10s but manage to date someone as romantic as Aaron, but rather for people like Aaron, who may initially seem distant and unapproachable but end up surprise you.
The movie offers a straightforward display of the special tangled politics of gay sex as they progress from lust into something akin to love. It’s sexy and heartfelt when Aaron asks Bobby to top him. The threesomes and foursomes, the inevitable question, and a vacation to Provincetown that yields a number of humorous cameos are additional markers of the LGBT experience.
Even when the tone of the movie shifts to something darker, “Bros” is still very interested in becoming a rom-com with a happy conclusion. This is intentional because Eichner has made it clear that he wasn’t attempting to make a “indie” movie. Even if the gay sex isn’t particularly graphic in any way, this is a large, glossy Hollywood package dressed in mainstream attire.
While the city emerges as more of a character than a background in this film—Eichner, who co-wrote the script with Stoller, has an ear for talky New York dialogue—there are also moments that border on Woody Allen territory when Aaron and Bobby begin to fall in love there. Brandon Trost, the film’s cinematographer, uses more visual flair than you might anticipate for the genre, which frequently prioritises content above form. It’s ground-breaking enough that Eichner’s gay ode to the classic American romcoms of the past looks and feels just like them. That is preferable to a film that makes an excessive effort to appeal to LGBT audiences. This one only notices us and hears us.
“Bros” world-premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. It will open from Universal Pictures on September 30.