by Toby Woollaston
Verdict: A conventional rom-com that also bucks the genre.
Near the beginning of Bros, co-writer, actor, and comedian Billy Eichner (Bob’s Burgers) lays bare the film’s underbelly and invites you to consider if Bros is a a gay rom-com or a conventional rom-com about a gay couple. “Love is love is love?” he questions in response to a movie exec’s all-encompassing notion of romance. “Not it’s not!” Eichner answers, further explaining that gay friendships are different and so are gay sex lives. What proceeds is a contentious (and also funny) verbal unpacking of stereotypes through the lens of Eichner paired with the mainstream conventionality of a romcom (Judd Apatow co-produced, what’s more).
The narrative arc is familiar—set in New York, a successful podcaster, Bobby (Eichner), falls for the frustratingly aloof but handsome Aaron (Luke Macfarlane). The couple treads an uneven path of harmony and discord as their divergent personalities merge. They bicker, break up, get back together, and traverse the kind of bumpy road to coupledom that will ring true to a wide audience.
Eichner’s quick-witted and often hilarious observations (brace yourself because they arrive like an avalanche) are swift to point out LGBTQ+’s many injustices at the hands of popular-culture, such as how morose films about gay life are never cast by a gay actors (he notes Power of the Dog). Indeed, Bros spends a bit too much time satirically joking about the hypocrisies of diversity, often to the detriment of plot progression, but does so with the kind of laser-sharp satire that’s hard to ignore.
And although Bros risks embodying the same problems of hypocrisy by gambling on conventional romcom tropes to tell a “different” kind of love story, the result is cheekily subversive. It’s a Trojan horse of a film slipping a gay romance past the lofty walls of rom-com conventions to deliver its message.
Undoubtedly, there will be a rainbow of opinions here; some will see Bros as a preachy and self-conscious over correction, while others will consider it a sanitised rom-com package that puts gay life back in the closet—but hopefully, most will find a few laughs. As sheer entertainment it sits in the middle of the pack of the Apatow-produced comedies, but as a film that normalises gay life, Bros is a triumph.
See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.