In Bros, the history of rom-coms permeates this story of two men who struggle with commitment issues falling for each other. Bobby Lieber (Billy Eichner) talks with a guy on Grindr about how the app is kind of like You’ve Got Mail (while the guy on the other end demands ass pics). There are several references throughout to When Harry Met Sally… and there’s even a party to celebrate the launch of a new app called Zellweger, which is for guys who just want to meet up, talk about celebrities, then fall asleep. Bros—from director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and co-written by Stoller and Eichner—is steeped in the history of rom-coms, and for good reason, as Bros immediately becomes a part of that legacy. Not only is Bros the first romantic comedy to feature a primarily LGBTQ+ cast put out by a major studio, it also immediately joins the ranks of the great rom-coms, a hilarious, sexy, and undeniably charming rom-com from beginning to end.
Eichner stars as Bobby, a podcast host who is also working on getting the first LGBTQ+ History Museum up and running. At 40, Bobby has yet to have a meaningful relationship, seemingly fine with random Grindr meetups and his close-knit group of friends for emotional support. At a club, Bobby meets Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), a jock who hates his lawyer job, loves Garth Brooks, and keeps disappearing whenever Bobby tries to make a move on him. The connection between the mismatched couple is immediate, yet their disinterest in commitment makes it difficult for them to get close to each other. As these two get to know each other and start to form something close to a relationship, they start to see the pros and cons of getting together.
While Bros has sort of been marketed as an almost satire of rom-coms, Bros is decidedly a fairly straightforward rom-com, but as Bobby says early on, gay romance isn’t the same as straight romance. Love is love is love is actually bullshit, and Bros does a great job of showing how queer relationships can be fundamentally different from the heteronormative relationships we see in the movies. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan never had to deal with throuples, Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant never wrestled in bed and did poppers before having sex. Well, at least that we know of. But even though these types of relationships are unique in their own ways, Eichner and Stoller highlight just how beautiful and romantic this type of relationship that is too rarely seen in films can be.
Bros also seems to know its own importance as the first gay rom-com from a major studio and uses that as a way to slyly explore the history of LGBTQ+ in its own way via the museum. Stoller and Eichner drop in all sorts of details about the important moments and figure in queer history, but in a way that always manages to be entertaining or narratively important. Near the end of the film, Bobby states that even though queer people have been around since the beginning of time, it feels like they’re only now beginning to tell their own stories. With Bros, Eichner and everyone involved seems to understand just how major this film is, a necessary story that is finally being told.
But most importantly, Bros is one of the most hysterical comedies of the year, thanks to the fantastic writing and this tremendous cast. This film is packed with scene stealers, from Guy Branum as Bobby’s friend Henry, several excellent cameos (including one that fans of Billy on the Street will love) to the rest of the LGBTQ+ board that includes Jim Rash, Dot-Marie Jones, Eve Lindley, Ts Madison, and Miss Lawrence. No one is wasted here, and it’s fitting that with its packed cast, Bros sort of feels right in line with the other ensemble-heavy comedies produced by Judd Apatow.
Yet the real powerhouse of Bros is the relationship between Bobby and Aaron, and both Eichner and Macfarlane are perfect romantic leads to this story. Eichner gets to show that he deserves to be a star of the highest order, as he shows his vulnerability, his brashness, his romantic side, the sad reality of growing up gay, and, hell, he even gets to sing too. Apatow has often produced films that feel like a launching point for a comedian that deserved more attention, like Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin or Pete Davidson in The King of Staten Island, but Bros might be the best example of this, showing everything Eichner has to offer. Similarly, as the “straight man” to Bobby, Macfarlane is equally charming, a bit more closed off and uncertain about what he wants, but always delightful and a character we always root for—even when he’s questioning if he wants a relationship with our lead. But together, Bobby and Aaron are one of the best rom-com couples in quite some time. Bros is packed with broad humor at times, but the film is at its best when it follows Bobby and Aaron getting to know each other, walking down a New York City street and talking together. The electric chemistry between these two is all Bros really needs.
Bros manages to both present how queer relationships are wholly different from straight relationships, but also how when it comes to rom-coms, love actually is love is love. Even though Bros is playing in a fairly well-trod formula, it still manages to feel new thanks to the refreshing angle that is shown here. Eichner and Stoller have written a film that plays to both of their strengths as storytellers, all while making one of the funniest and most romantic films of 2022. If this is just the beginning of queer people being able to tell their own stories, here’s hoping we get more that are as great as Bros.