If you only know Billy Eichner from his comedy show Billy on the Street, wherein he accosts random New Yorkers with absurd questions like “Would you have sex with Paul Rudd?”, you owe it to yourself to see the other sides of his talent displayed in Bros. The movie is something pretty unique -- a major studio romantic-comedy where the two leads are gay men. That's cool to see. Of course, we live in a time when a certain type of audience segregation still exists. Some people are reluctant to see movies that weren't “made for” them. Rest assured, all you need to enjoy Bros is a desire to watch a really good rom-com and an enjoyment of laughing.
Eichner plays Bobby, a well-known podcaster who is trying to establish the first LGBTQ+ museum in New York City. He's forty years old, has never been in love, and gets companionship from occasional brief, unsatisfying Tinder hookups. At a club one night, he meets Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), a muscular guy who sends him mixed messages. They begin hanging out, and for a while, it seems like a romance might possibly be brewing. But Aaron is physically attracted to buff, macho dudes, which Bobby most certainly is not. Bobby also has a fundamental mistrust of relationships, even as he recognizes that he wants to be in one with Aaron. The story follows what happens as both men deal with their personal neuroses and insecurities in an attempt to see if they can make things work.
One of the biggest problems with rom-coms is that so many of them utilize the exact same conventions. The genre can often feel repetitive. Bros offers new complications for the central couple to overcome. A few of them are hilariously raunchy, as when Aaron takes Bobby with him to a threesome he's committed to taking part in. Others dig a little deeper into topical issues. One of the funniest scenes finds Bobby making dinner extremely awkward by repeatedly trying to convince Aaron's conservative schoolteacher mother (Married with Children's Amanda Bearse) that there's nothing wrong with letting second graders know gay/trans people exist. (He's right. It's the way he goes about making the point that's funny.) Elements like that freshen up a type of movie that tends to veer toward the predictable.
Eichner's performance offers nice surprises. A few moments play upon the comedic anger that was part of his persona on Billy on the Street, while others reveal a softer, more tender side. He shows Bobby's vulnerability, the way he fears relationships because he doesn't want to get hurt. More amazing is that Eichner does this without sacrificing the humor. Cracking jokes is a way of masking the fear inside. The actor also strikes up nice, offbeat chemistry with Macfarlane. Over the course of the film, we really buy that Bobby and Aaron care about each other, and we root for them to work it out.
Bros has an abundance of comic pleasures, from a perfect, uproarious celebrity cameo to several jokes taking aim at cheesy Hallmark Channel movies (as well as the network's weird attitude toward gay people). I laughed pretty consistently at the film. Bobby's passion for educating people about LGBTQ history is an appealing touch, one that adds flavor to the story, indicating that he is quite capable of commitment in life. He simply needs to learn how to transfer that to another person. You might even gain a little knowledge while you're watching.
At 115 minutes, the movie would have benefitted from minor trimming to speed up the pace a bit, and a couple key supporting characters – Bobby's female friend, Aaron's brother – aren't developed enough for the importance of their functions. Many rom-coms have flaws way bigger than that. Bros is, by and large, really funny, really smart, and really sweet.
out of four
Bros is rated R for strong sexual content, language throughout, and some drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.