Bros (2022) Review
A SOLID GAY “BRO-MANCE” ROM-COM
As humanity continues evolve from one generation to the next, the idea of a person (male or female) being gay and attracted to an another of the same sex has always been sensitive subject to broach. While there’s no clearly defining reasoning behind it (i.e., some suggesting they were born thinking that way, while other due to a lifestyle choice that triggered it), the moniker status of being gay / lesbian has been around for quite some time, mostly (in more modern times) more developed awareness by an individual during their adolescent teenager years of self-discovery of “who am I?” identity. While it may have been a sort of “taboo” idea, being gay (in today’s society) has entered a more mainstream / pop culture realm, with the idea being more generally accepted (in the public’s eye) than in years before, compromising more of a large community behind the personal identity (i.e., The LGBTQ+ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer). That being said, there are still individuals who look down upon the idea (due to personal differences, religious belief, etc.), which can lead to a person being ridicule and / or involving a hate crime for being gay. It’s a double edge sword to officially “come out”, fearing the worst of a person’s surroundings and the general acceptance to those close to the individual (family, friends, peers, colleagues), but, at the same time feel a sense of liberation and to finally express oneself for the first time without any false façade behind it. Of late, recent mediums on both the small (syndicated television shows) and feature films have tackled the idea of being gay through their medium of storytelling of various characters and situations, allowing to express the idea underneath a cinematic lens. This includes (but not limited too) this topic in moves and tv shows like Glee, Dallas Buyers Club, Birdcage, Brokeback Mountain, Carol, Notes on a Scandal, Call Me by Your Name, Love, Simon, and many others. Now, Universal Pictures and director Nicholas Stoller present the latest endeavor to explore the acceptance of homosexuality relationship in the movie titled Bros. Does the film find laughs and heart within its rom-com presentation or is it just a shallow and poor attempt to make a culture representation in mainstream cinematics?
Living in New York City, Bobby Lieber (Billy Eichner) is a cynical podcaster single gay guy who is working hard to bring his dream of a LGBTQ+ museum to life, pushing to find a final donor to open the doors to public. While out on the town at club for a friend’s party, Bobby eyes Aaron Shephard (Luke Macfarlane), a good-looking and masculine guy, with the pair sharing a mutual attraction, but sharing an awkward chemistry with one another that makes their initial moments a bit strange. However, something sparks between the two men, who slowly begin to warm up to each other, getting past causal sex to realize that something more might be there for their partnership. Bobby begins to see the potential in pursuing a relationship, but Aaron is a little hesitant, unsure of what he wants for himself and in a couple as they find real love, which is soon challenged by personal communication and trust issues. With Aaron having more of shy quality of fulling commitment and Bobby’s loud and boisterous bravado, the two men’s love for each other is tested and is ultimately confronted by their own actions and behavior.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Sorry if this and my opening paragraph sound familiar to some of my readers out there, but these portions were taking from my review of 2018’s Love, Simon. It wasn’t because I was lazy or anything, but it definitely conveys the same thematic message that I want to state in both reviews. So…without further ado…..as that opening paragraph states, the term “coming out” for a gay person is something that can speak to many different people from the individual who is coming out and those around them. Personally, it’s not my lifestyle choice preference, but (to me) I see nothing wrong with it as I known several people who are gay or lesbians and are completely normal to me and their sexual orientation doesn’t bother me in the slightest. My parents raised me and my brother to be openminded. However, like I said above, while today’s society is more opening to the idea of a person being gay (both in acceptance in pop culture and in real life), there are still those who are prejudice against the idea of a same sex, speaking hateful slurs (or worse) at individuals who define themselves underneath the moniker label of being gay. I know this is very sensitive subject to talk about, so I’m just going to live it at that.
This brings me back around to talking about Bros., a 2022 romantic comedy film that seeks to make the subject of being gay at the forefront of the endeavor. As stated in my opening paragraphs, while some out there might not agree with the more “forward thinking” of normalizing individuals in this category, Hollywood (both on the small and big screen) has been slowly but surely representing characters who are gay, lesbian, or anything else-in between moniker within the endeavors, which definitely keeps everything moving forward towards a better humanity….in my opinion. Thus, the idea of having a gay romantic comedy like Bros. isn’t something “out of the norm” for me, but I was still bit curious about its release. I really don’t remember hearing much about this movie when it was first announced. In fact, the first I actually heard about was several weeks for its theatrical release date of September 30th, 2022. I remember seeing the movie trailer during my weekly trip to the movies (during the “coming attractions” previews) and like I said…. I was little interested in this movie. Not so much to be super hyped to see it as a” must see” movie to watch, but because of what it represented. The trailer itself was nice and I got the gist of the main plot of Bros, but I was curious to see how moviegoers were going to receive this particular film, especially as it was being touted as a of one of the first gay romantic comedies of mainstream platform. So, yes…. I did plan on going to see Bros. when it was release, but I just did have to wait a little bit to see it, especially since the picture came out during the time when Hurricane Ian hit FL. So, while everything was recovered in my area, I finally had the chance to see Bros in theaters during one of the days off from work. I had a few other movie reviews to get done prior to this one (as well as doing a few newer high-profile features to punch out), which kept delaying my review for Bros Well, I’m finally caught up and ready to share my thoughts on the film. And what did I think of it? Well, surprisingly……I liked it. Despite a formulaic nature that doesn’t break any narration walls, Bros is a hilarious and heartfelt gay romantic comedy that sparks influential inspiration to those in the LGBTQ+ community and in the mainstream culture of cinematic entertainment. Like many rom coms out there, the movie doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but rather reinforces it with sweet tale of finding love and a person’s place in the world. And that’s all that matters.
Bros is directed by Nicholas Stoller, whose previous directorial works include such film projects like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Neighbors, and The Five-Year Engagement. Given his familiarity with adulty comedy feature endeavors, Stoller seems like quite the suitable choice to bring Bros to the big screen in a motion picture rom-com piece. This is especially noticeable in the film with all the noticeable quirks and gags that Stoller is customary of doing with his comedy aspect, yet also mixes those particular moments with splashes of humanity in heartfelt scenes and meaningful epiphanies. As to be expected, the romantic comedy picture has been done many times over and Stoller kind of knows that and toils around with several commonplace nuances, which can be both good and bad (more on that below). Yet, Stoller makes the most of that notion and weaves a few new wrinkles. The film’s script, which was penned by both Stoller and Eichner (both pulling double duty on the project) help bring the movie’s story to life and produces something quite interesting, with old familiars of comedic gags (the ones with voiceovers while characters are texting are pretty good) to help bring laughs and levity to situations of which I found to hit their target more often than not, but also brings a sense of impactful warmth and tenderness that ultimately work within the picture’s context.
At the same time, one does have to appreciate the movie being told within a rom-com frame. Yes, if you are fan of romantic comedies, Bros has plenty to offer within the context of that classic story of two people falling love, going through that awkward attraction phase, dating, having a big problem / challenge to overcome in their relationship, and then coming together in the end. It’s proven formula, which acts as a double edge sword, but fans of rom com’s will notice the tropes of the subgenre. Basically, it’s like a “comfort” watch. People want explosions and gunfights in action movies, people want to be scared and horrified in horror films, and people wanted to be taking to another world in fantasies flicks, and so on and so forth. Thus, Stoller’s does tread a fine line in making Bros a bit something different, yet still recognizable for what it is…. a modern twist of the classic romantic comedy presentation.
Now…to address the big elephant in the movie. Yes, I do have to praise the film for being one of the first mainstream endeavor to feature two gay men (in the lead roles) in a romantic comedy. What do I mean? Well, with the context of gays (or more importantly queer same sex relationships in main lead characters) in movies has always been quite complicated and sort of ends with either forbidden love (Brokeback Mountain and The World Yet to Come), scandalous (Notes on a Scandal or Carol), or ending in some type of tragedy (A Single Man and Spoiler Alert). Bros is none of that and, while I don’t mean to throw shade of those films (or similar ones), it’s almost kind of refreshing to see a movie about two same sex partners finding love in a more straightforward way. Yes, the script does throw a bit of comedic and goofy situations into the mix of having Bobby and Aaron courtship, who are very open of their sexuality, of each other, but it’s for a more lighthearted experience and have more of a modern feel by expressing not all relationships for gay men have to be subjected illicit love some type of heartbroken drama. In addition, I also like how two gay men are the main focus of the movie and not so much as merely sidekick characters. For those who love romantic comedy movies, it’s almost a commonplace staple that the film has some type of gay character, who acts as friend or acquaintance in the film to the main character(s), with said gay character having notable quippy dialogue lines on gay / straight ideas (see My Best Friend’s Wedding, Crazy Rich Asians, Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Perfect Man, etc.). It’s usually played off for laughs and becoming stereotypical, which was highlighted in the film Isn’t It Romantic. Eichner and Stoller sort of dismiss that notion in Bros by making Bobby and Aaron having more of the leading roles in the film, along with other LGBTQ+ supporting characters (even though some are a bit cliché). So, again, it was quite interesting and almost refreshing to see two gays character the set primary leads in a romantic comedy and it doesn’t really feel jarring or explicit because the movie (as mentioned above) follows the proven formula of a romantic comedy path. So, it’s a good representation of a “first step” in Hollywood. Lastly, with the movie being a more of romantic comedy than drama, Bros does feature a few sex scenes of two men (or more) coupling. For those out there…. don’t worry…. it’s nothing truly explicit or revealing. I mean…. if a person (straight, gay, or otherwise) has seeing stuff like from HBO’s Rome and Game of Thrones or Starz’s Outlander and Spartacus, Bros is more tamed in that category.
Another interesting aspect that Stoller does in helming Bros is how in self-aware it is towards being a gay rom com. What do I mean? Well, the movie certainly does poke fun at gay / same sex motion pictures and how they usually end in some type of scandal or tragedy (as mentioned above) as well as having humorous gags that poke fun at straight actors playing gay characters in movies and at cheesy holiday Christmas Hallmark movies (the movie calls them Hallheart movies). It was these particular parts that I actually laughed at the most in the film, with the self-awareness of how these points play out. Even further examination is in how the movie breaks a few stereotypes on gay community, with Eichner’s script stating (in the movie) that not all gays are nice (being more cynical or self-centered) as well as not all gays are flashy and flamboyant (as seeing through the character of Aaron Shephard, who is more manly and a bit conservative in his wardrobe). It’s nice to see these two particular representations (as well as a few others) being displayed in the movie and it’s something that feels genuine, with a more “sign of the times” in this modern world. Speaking of the modern world, Bros does feature sub-plot narrative, which focuses on an LGBTQ+ museum that features celebratory figure heads and famous people within that community. It’s at this particular point in the film that’s a bit interesting as I personally found it to be intriguing to utilize a narrative piece that helps express this specific community. It’s this representation within a mainstream feature that is positive for me and helps paint the picture for members of the LGBTQ+ family, with their personal struggles and triumphs. One can easily tell that Eichner wanted to express this in Bros and is displayed in the film’s script, with Stoller fully presenting it in the movie: showcasing pride for the pride community.
Within the film’s presentation, Bros meets the industry standards of a motion picture of this particular caliber within the romantic comedy subgenre. And that’s not a bad thing to describe or a hinderance to the whole endeavor. Yes, the movie doesn’t have the exotic locales as in something like Crazy Rich Asians nor does it have the heightened fashion costume attires of a popstar that from Marry Me, but Stoller and his team (again) reinforces the idea of classic rom com depiction, especially with the movie being primarily set in New York City, which certainly does capture the oh-so-classic romantic comedy setting. By utilizing NYC for these two love interest, the cityscape becomes a visual playground of seeing the characters interact with their environment, including clubs, restaurants, apartments, several sightseeing places and a few snippets of the area during the holiday season. Yet, despite those feeling a bit commonplace (maybe even a tad cliché at times) it still works for what the movie wants to convey and meets the visual background setting requirements for the feature….and then some. Stoller even takes the movie’s narrative in visiting Provincetown (aka P-Town), a popular vacation destination for the LGBTQ+ community, which (again) fits quite nicely into the story of Bros and feels genuine a part of the picture’s context make-up. Thus, the film’s “behind the scenes” team, including Lisa Myers (production design), Nicki Ritchie (set decorations), Tom Broecker (costume designs), and Christine Foley (art direction) for their efforts in making the movie well-represented within the context of its setting and presentation. Lastly, the movie’s score, which was done by Marc Shaiman, is also pretty good. Nothing incredibly to write home about, but (much like the film itself), reinforces the rom com wrappings, with Shaiman’s composition hitting all the right notes…be it dramatic and boisterous one or quiet character dialogue moments.
Unfortunately, Bros doesn’t fall into the trappings of point of criticism that, while not entirely the film’s fault, still lingers and holds the movie back from being truly standout beyond being the first mainstream gay romantic comedy endeavor. How so? Well, for starters, the biggest culprit in the film is how predictable and formulaic the movie is throughout. From start to finish, Bros, for better or worse, is steeped in the tried and true narrative path of a romantic comedy. While I did praise the movie for following the familiar path, it also is a hinderance to the feature. If you’ve seeing one romantic comedy, you’ve seeing them all, with very little ingenuity being added to each new installment. This makes Bros quite predictable and feels a tad redundant within its narrative as viewers will easily guess of where the movie’s going and how it will end, especially in all the setbacks and triumphs that the characters go through. As I said, it is sort of like a “double edge” sword as rom com’s are treated like “comfort food” watch, with not much added to it to make stand out. Yes, this movie has two gay men in the lead, but (sadly) that’s pretty much the big highlight. It’s the trappings of romantic comedy (even some of the better ones), so I really don’t discredit the film that much for this particular criticism. This also comes at the expense of the movie falling into classic tropes and stereotypes that are scattered throughout the feature. Some are played for laughs and are humorous, yet, despite the movie trying to make a difference, it can be a little bit frustrating that the movie’s script falters in projecting stereotypical characters (both major and minor) within such tiresome schticks. Again, not a total deal-breaker for me, but it might be for some out there.
Looking beyond those particular points of criticism, which (again) are mostly a part of the rom com formula, Bros biggest problem is that the movie doesn’t go deep enough within certain storytelling elements and subplots. I do praise the movie for showcasing the pride community and using the LGBTQ+ museum as way to express those people, but I felt like the movie could’ve had a slightly better representation by adding a bit more drama and / or innovation. What’s presented works in the film edit of Bros, but I felt like it was missed opportunity. Another problem in that category is in several character development in both Bobby and Aaron’s lives. I’ll get more to that in the paragraph below, but suffice to say that I would’ve taking a few different narrative routes for these two characters (as well as few side ones) in drawing a more intriguing conclusion; something that had tad more conflict to make the ending more endearing and palpable. This also makes the movie have bit of a pacing issues when trying to navigate through its story. To be fair, there is a story to be told, but it felt like there could’ve been more substance in a few areas to make Bros feel more well-rounded.
The cast in Bros (to me) is actually pretty good, with a lot of talents featured in the film being members of the LGBTQ+ community and does the job well. Yes, some do fill the quota of being cliched side characters, but (again) this is mostly due to the nature of the story being presented in a romantic comedy premise as well as showcasing the queer community. Leading the charge in the movie is actor Billy Eichner, who plays the one of the two leads in Bros as Bobby Lieber. Known for his roles in Billy in the Street, Parks and Recreation, and The Lion King, Eichner has certainly made a name for himself and has been spotted in various projects on both the big and small screen throughout his career. In a nutshell, the movie’s likeability might come down to what’s your take on Eicher as an actor. Is he is capable talent in the lead role with plenty of snarky and quippy dialogue moments within the usage of his loud and boisterous voice or is he just an annoying actor that plays the gay individual schtick in various roles. Again, it’s up to the viewers. In my opinion, however, I liked Eichner in the movie as Bobby, which reinforces the strong affirmation of the gay mainstream rom com endeavor with someone like Eichner at the helm. His character of Bobby also plays to the actor’s strength; finding the individual to be very cynical towards life and others and always having an opinion on something (whether good or bad). Thus, it’s kind of nice to see the transformation that he undergoes in the film’s narrative by becoming softening towards Aaron’s affection and come to his own personal revelations and vulnerability. As stated, it’s quite clear that Bros is a passion project for the actor, and he pours his pride (no pun intended) into making this movie work (both on paper and on-screen), with one particular scene as the perfect example in which Eichner (as Bobby) goes off on a monologue speech that’s purely tender and gut-wrenching to hear, which can be easily translated into both his character’s plight and from the actor’s own personal experiences. In the end, I think that Eicher is a perfect match for the character of Bobby and, while the opinions on him can waiver, it’s clear that it was meant to be him to bring this project to light with enough gumption and determination for the queer community.
Acting opposite to Eicher in the movie is actor Luke Macfarlane, who plays the second lead character in Bros in the character Aaron Shephard. Known for his roles in Over There, Brothers & Sisters, and Killjoys, Macfarlane doesn’t have a big enough name in the more mainstream world, but his acting skills speak for themselves and can always deliver some great character moments. In addition, Macfarlane has been somewhat typed cast as the “pretty leading man” in over a dozen of Hallmark movies (no, seriously…. look it up). So, it’s quite clear that the actor is presented in such a manner of being masculine and sweet. Naturally, this plays to the film’s strength, with Macfarlane doing a great job at playing the role of Aaron, who is portrayed as a hunky, yet shy individual who is a bit conservative and breaks the stereotypes of gay men being flamboyant. Of the two leads, I think that Aaron was a bit more interesting and no….it’s not because of how he physically looked, but more because he was different from many of the LGBTQ+ characters that are and showcase homosexual masculinity in a good light. Basically, he’s more of the opposite of Eicher’s Bobby, with Macfarlane playing up those nuances of Aaron being more shy, more conflicted about his life, and afraid to fully open himself up towards a relationship. Plus, I do find it kind of funny that Macfarlane is straight actor playing a gay man of which the movie pokes fun of acting talents that do that. Again, that’s the self-awareness comedy that I liked in the film. Perhaps the only problem that I had with the character is that I would’ve taken a few different storyline progressions with Aaron, especially during the second and third act. There are a couple of plot elements that play a part of the character that are presented, but don’t exactly close properly and / or sort of get left behind by the time the feature reaches its conclusion. This includes an old high school acquaintance of Aaron, who comes back into his life due to some recent events. Thus, it would’ve like to see a bit more conflict with Aaron time in Bros, which would offer a better understanding for him and towards his love for Bobby. Still, regardless of that, I think that Macfarlane was solid in playing Aaron and further proves my point that not very queer individual has to have the same type of outward appearance stigma and could be represented as very conventional / conserve way through physical and emotional aspects.
Most of the supporting cast is certainly made up of the diverse and representative of the LGBTQ+ community, with many of the principle cast being members of the community. This includes TS Madison (Zola and Hush) as Angela, Guy Branum (Black Box and Not Looking) as Henry, Eve Lindley (Dispatches from Elsewhere and Outsiders) as Tamara, Dot-Marie Jones (Glee and Venice the Series) as Cherry, Jim Rash (The Way Way Back and Community) as Robert, Symone (RuPaul’s Drag Race) as Marty, Bowen Yang (Isn’t it Romantic and Saturday Night Live!) as Lawrence Grape, Miss Lawrence (Star and The United States vs. Billie Holiday) as Wanda, and Harvey Fierstein (Independence Day and Mrs. Doubtfire) as Louis, just to name a few. Even though some of these individuals have played LGBTQ+ character before in other roles, their involvement in the movie is well-met and a welcomed addition, which does help celebrate today’s modern world. The flip side, however, is that most can be depicted as one-not-esque characters, with many embracing their cliches of what they identify themselves with. It’s give and take, but with most of the feature being primarily focused on Eicher and Macfarlane, these characters don’t have much time to be further developed, which is fine to me.
The rest of the cast, including actor Guillermo Diaz (Scandal and Weeds) as Edgar, actress Monica Raymund (Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D.) as Tina, actor Ryan Faucett (New Amsterdam and Brennan on the Run) as Aaron’s old high school classmate Josh, actor Jai Rodriguez (Eastsiders and Kiss Me, Kill Me) as Aaron’s brother Jason Shephard, and actress Amanda Bearse (Married with Children and All My Children) as Aaron’s mom Anne Shephard, round out the remaining minor supporting characters in the movie. Most of these characters have limited screen-time by design and only have a handful of scenes in the movie. Although, I think that all of these acting talents are still good in their respective roles. Although, a few could’ve been easily expanded upon.
Cynical podcaster Bobby Lieber accidentally makes a romantic connection with the shy and masculine Aaron Shephard, with the pair sharing a bond that confronts their own commitment issues and personal flaws in the movie Bros. Director Nicholas Stoller’s last film tackles a new romantic comedy by providing a new springboard of having its two lead characters gay men and following a classic rom com with that notion. While the movie faces challenges overcome its narrative trajectory within rom com predictably (and the genre’s cliches and criticisms) as well as several points that are bit “on the nose”, the film still comes out on top for being a lighthearted rom com that delivers on its laughs and sentimentality, with especial thanks to Stoller’s direction, Eichner’s script, humorous bits, heartfelt moments, commentary on stereotyping, and the film’s cast, with most notable on Eicher and McFarlane’s performances. Personally, I liked this movie. I wasn’t really expecting a whole lot from this movie, but I took away more than what I was thought. It has its flaws within its narrative path and within the strict confines of the rom-com formula. Yet, I felt that it was sincere gesture that fun, lighthearted humorous, and heartfelt. It has its own agenda to perform, which can be good or bad (depending on your view), but I personally think it’s a step in the right direction for mainstream audiences. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is a solid “recommended” for those in the LGBTQ+ community or even those who enjoy watching rom coms. That being said, I probably would also say that the film is also an “iffy-choice” as some viewers might not particularly care for the subject matter. Again, everything in this movie sort of goes “hand-in-hand” with good and bad, so there is no doubt that opinions on the feature might have a polarizing effect on moviegoers out there. To me, however, I felt that Bros is sweet and entertaining romantic comedy that, while sticking to the formula nature of its subgenre, still manages to rise above mediocrity and presents a sometimes hilarious and other times sentimental look at two men falling in love in with each other for a mainstream audience and reinforces the tried and true saying that “love is love” regardless of sex, gender, or moniker.
4.2 Out of 5 (Recommended / Iffy Choice)
Released On: September 30th, 2022
Reviewed On: November 15th, 2022
Bros is 115 minutes long and is rated R for strong sexual content, some drug use and language throughout