Let’s talk about Bros, The new comedy written by and starring Billy Eichner and directed by longtime collaborator Nick Stoller. The film was also produced by Judd Apatow giving it a chance at distribution from a major studio – a first for a primarily LGBTQ film especially in the rom-com space. It’s a triumphant feat for Eichner and hopefully we’ll see more films get the chance.
Bros is important, but is it a good movie?
The plot revolves around Bobby (Eichner) and Aaron (Luke McFarland), two bros that meet on a sweaty dance floor. Bobby is a podcaster with deferred dreams, but ultimately a happy life. He’s been told ‘Noi’ his entire life and has persevered despite it. However a life on the defensive can cause hardness and while we see Bobby’s relationship with his friends and family thrive, his love life – one that demands vulnerability – falters.
Bobby begins the film talking about the differences between gay and straight love. He says love is not love, we are not the same. And while the initial mechanisms may be unconventional (a cute outing may consist of taking your date to your threesome), at the end of the day, any relationship that lives in a monogamous heteronormative structure is prone to some residual habits. Bobby vows to have a casual relationship; being non-monogamous? Cool! Unattached poly sex with your boyfriend (bro-friend?)’s high school crush Josh Evans (Ryan Faucett)… and Steve (Brock Ciarlelli). Fine (kinda)! But a committed relationship with love and trust and vulnerability? Gay guys don’t do that! Or do they?
In the background of the film, Bobby is the head of building and curating the New York LGBTQ museum. He’s surrounded by a diverse group of members from the community. Dot Marie Jones is holding it down for the lesbians, the irascible Jim Rash is making sure bi voices are heard. Ts Madison and Eve Lindley are holding it down for the trans girls and Wanda (the ever fashionable Miss Lawrence) is the nonbinary angel they were meant to be.
The group both challenges and supports Bobby’s vision and the many of the museum segments serve as a de facto history lesson on some of the pioneers and unsung heroes of the LGBTQ movement. In this capacity Aaron is a neophyte millennial gay who has long resisted his connection to the created community. For him – a bro from upstate New York – homosexuality was a “big city” thing and though he grew up with dreams of making pretty little chocolates, his connection to being gay was furtive. Even after he moves to New York, when he sees childhood friend Josh Evans, he simply introduces his date as a “friend”.
Contrasted with Bobby whose identity lies within his community, this creates an interesting wrinkle for their budding relationship. One that affects not only Aaron, but his family, his job, basically his whole world. And it may be a good thing. Bros does a good job of not judging Aaron for his ignorance or Bobby for his unrealistic expectations and lack of general boundaries. But it does call it out and each man is forced to face the part of themselves that scare them the most.
Overall the plot is strong and well thought out and the performances are fun and on par. Every role, save for a few surprise cameos, are played by LGBTQ+ community members. Standouts are the couple of Monica Raymund,Guillermo Diaz and Aaron’s “straight” brother Jason played by Jai Rodriguez. Additionally,l Guy Branum adds some wonderful color as well as Aaron’s mother Anne played by the undeniable talent and under celebrated director, Amber Bearse.
Bros clocks in just under 2hrs and it’s time well spent. The spaces where the film meanders appear to be purposeful and Eichner did a fantastic job of weaving the different storylines together so nothing was overwhelming, but also not forgotten. It’s truly a fantastic effort and one that was edited with its importance in mind. This isn’t to say it’s stuffy – there’s plenty of racy humor that will have you in stitches. It’s more that there didn’t seem to be a moment that was just kept in, or a moment that should have been fixed in post and then wasn’t. The movie is tight and better for it.
It must be said that this film is Billy Eichner’s. It’s his voice, it’s his point of view. During the TIFF premiere, a member of the audience was happy to see the diversity but asked why the story still revolved around cis white men. Ts Madison gave an inspiring answer that amounted to, this is how the community gets its foot in the door. She joked that the sequel would be about her and she’d get more lines. While this is true, the more simple answer is that this is Eichner’s story of his own experiences.
This begs the question of how does one go about making a film that’s the first of its kind but with a sole perspective and not have it be a hot navel gazing mess? Currently the answer is: Ask Billy Eichner. There’s a scene on the beach where Bobby waxes poetic about the nature of fairness and not giving up despite the lack of it. Aaron sits attentively and the scene goes on but it never drags. Eichner exhibits so much vulnerability and truth and authenticity that it’s kind of impossible to be mad at him. And it’s that passion and need for inclusion and true representation that set this film apart. Eichner has made something that he can be proud of and hopefully it will open the door for more diverse queer voices to be heard.
Bros is funny, heart warming, thoughtful and well worth the watch.