Co-written by and starring Billy Eichner, ‘Bros’ arrived in cinemas last year carrying a whole heap of baggage on its shoulders. The first gay rom-com to be released by a major studio, written by an openly gay man, and starring an almost exclusively LGBTQ+ cast. The significance of it all somewhat overwhelmed the release itself, and audiences failed to turn up. A real shame, because they missed out on a superbly written, and hilarious romantic comedy. If you missed it then, fear not, you can catch up with it now, on a terrific special edition Blu-ray.
Eichner is Bobby, a podcaster and curator for the first ever LGBTQ+ museum in New York. He is single, has a close circle of friends, a Grindr account, and he is quite happy with that. At a party for the launch of a new dating app, he laments the sea of shirtless boring gym bros before him. But then he locks eyes with one of them across the dance floor. Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) looks to be every part the gay dude-bro stereotype, but he surprises Bobby and a few gentle sparks fly between them.
‘Bros’ then goes on to follow most of the conventional beats of a mainstream studio rom-com. What keeps it fresh however is its insistence that things like love, sex, romance, and friendship aren’t universal experiences. Eichner’s script, co-written with director Nicholas Stoller goes to some lengths to dispel notions of gay relationships being no different to straight relationships. There’s a specificity to the gay experience, and ‘Bros’ wants to reflect that. So whilst the structure of the film is familiar, the end result is genuinely something we’ve never seen from a major studio picture before.
The opening ten minutes are a touch manic and breathless, with Eichner leaning a little bit into his ‘Billy on the Street’ persona. Likewise the dialogue feels a bit too written and insistent on making a point. Once it relaxes into the story, there’s a real charm and lightness of touch to proceedings. Stoller, a veteran of studio comedies knows exactly what he’s doing with these kind of films.
Eichner and Macfarlane are both terrific as the classic mismatched couple. There’s so much chemistry and warmth and humour between them. There’s a real complexity to the writing, and it comes through in the performances. Eichner is charming and hilarious throughout, but really shines in the more serious moments. Likewise, Luke Macfarlane—who is given the less showy role—brings a depth and vulnerability to Aaron that belies his external confidence.
For a film that has so much to say about relationships, male friendships, masculinity, male body image, LGBTQ+ history, and the erasure of queer stories, it is remarkable how relentlessly funny ‘Bros’ still is. The more it taps into challenging subject matter, the funnier it gets. A debate over dinner about educating school kids on gay history is hilarious and has a punchline that had me howling. We can only hope that we don’t have to wait another hundred years before we get another film like ‘Bros’.
The Blu-ray release comes with an excellent array of special features, kicking off with 13-minutes of deleted scenes, and a short blooper reel. The main content is a series of featurettes, which go into detail on the importance of representation in the film, and the place it holds in history. There are also short programmes on the main cast and characters, the hilarious cameos, the art of the rom-com, and a look behind the scenes on one of the deleted scenes. The disc is rounded off with the trailer.
Cast: Billy Eichner, Luke Macfarlane, Guy Branum, Miss Lawrence, Jim Rash, Amanda Bearse Director:Nicholas Stoller Writer: Billy Eichner & Nicholas Stoller Released By: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Certificate: 15 Duration: 115 mins Release Date: 6th February 2023