Bros review: Nicholas Stoller’s romcom is a fun time

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 20: Luke Macfarlane and Billy Eichner attend Universal Pictures's "Bros" New York premiere at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on September 20, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Mendez/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 20: Luke Macfarlane and Billy Eichner attend Universal Pictures's "Bros" New York premiere at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on September 20, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Jason Mendez/WireImage) /

Nicholas Stoller’s Bros is touted as one of the first studio-backed comedies with an LGBTQ+ main cast. And, while it certainly brings queerness to the mainstream in a more brilliant light than most major studio-driven gay films with heterosexual leads, Stoller’s film still has many problems, despite being an enjoyable watch.

*Spoiler alert: the following article contains mild spoilers for Bros.*

Billy Eichner co-writes intense dialogue-driven scenes alongside Stoller and stars as the main lead, Bobby Lieber, a podcast host who has recently accepted a position as curator for the National LGBTQ+ History Museum.

Lieber believes he is happy as a gay man who hooks up with random Grindr dates instead of steadily dating the same man. That changes when he meets Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane), who initially seems way out of his league. Shepard loves athletic men and listens to Garth Brooks, two things Bobby isn’t into. However, as they learn about each other, they predictably fall in love.

Bros review: A serviceable rom-com that could have broken more ground

By then, you probably know how the movie will go. It’s a traditional 90s-esque rom-com, à la Nora Ephron, but with an LGBTQ+ twist. Ephron gets referenced quite a bit during this film, with Bobby talking about Where Harry Met Sally… as the prime example of romantic comedies, and eventually watches You’ve Got Mail.

Those films may have been Eichner’s excellent inspiration, and you can see it from beginning to end. The characters are as colorfully written as they are in an Ephron rom-com, and the aesthetic has the look and feel of the same ilk.

Brandon Trost’s cinematography is highly reminiscent of Ephron, from the warm colors to its standard wide shots giving a physical edge to the actors, so the chemistry between the leads becomes naturally palpable. And, as the two leads, Eichner and Macfarlane are terrific.

Their chemistry fires on all cylinders right from the get-go. It doesn’t take long before you inevitably root for them to fall in love with each other, even if the movie predicts some revelations that could change Aaron’s passion for Bobby and vice-versa.

But their relationship is beautifully human and is the core of why Bros works so well. Yes, Eichner is a skillful writer, and the movie has plenty of laugh-out-loud sequences, but it wouldn’t have worked were it not for its leads.

The supporting cast is also great, with Ts Madison, Jim Rash, Dot-Marie Jones, and Bowen Yang as significant highlights. Yang shares one of the film’s funniest scenes, where he pitches his ideas for the museum to Bobby and Aaron, involving The Haunted House of Gay Trauma. It’s another example of the versatility of Bowen Yang as a comedian and actor, stealing the spotlight away from Eichner and Macfarlane the only way he knows how.

It’s a shame that the film wastes Harvey Fierstein’s talents for a five-minute role (it could be less). He was announced to have joined the cast alongside Yang last year in what you would think would be a significant role. Yet, Fierstein’s presence barely impacts the movie, which is wild considering everything he has achieved in his illustrious career as an artist and queer icon. To have him in the film is a no-brainer, but to give him a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it extended cameo feels criminal.

It doesn’t help that, even as groundbreaking as the cast is, you can’t help but feel a sense of familiarity throughout the script. There are lots of self-referential moments in which Eichner references his privilege as a cis white gay man–he even receives the Cis White Gay Man of the Year Award at a fictitious LGBTQ+ awards ceremony–while telling the story of two cis white gay men falling in love with each other, instead of breaking the mold of cis white men films and doing something more groundbreaking, like Hulu’s Crush, Fire Island (also starring Bowen Yang) or Billy Porter’s Anything’s Possible.

Bros’ most significant problem is how formulaic its plot feels, and it doesn’t feel groundbreaking compared to the LGBTQ+ studio comedies mentioned above. Fire Island had a brilliant cast and a freeing plot that not only made queer people feel seen but was able to pander to everyone else naturally. Bros wants to be a studio comedy first and an LGBTQ+ movie second.

Eichner takes every possible predictable rom-com trope with queer actors, making for a reasonably unevenly paced and dull watch. We’ve seen it all before, but it’s innovative because the cast is LGBT. If Eichner wanted to break new ground further for representation in Hollywood, he wouldn’t have cast himself and another cis white man as the lead, even if they are terrific together.

Because of this, Bros only works because its actors’ comedies and performances are well-written. And, while it’s certainly a step in the right direction for more studios to fully embrace queer representation in mainstream films, more needs to be done.

Eichner seems to understand that and believes this movie will urge significant studios to make more LGBTQ+ driven films while ignoring the great queer filmmakers of the past who paved the way for Eichner to have been able to do Bros.

As a studio-driven queer film, it’s excellent, compared to the slop most studios passed off as “representation” in the past (*coughsDisneycoughs*). But when you put the history of queer cinema in the context of Bros, it’s just fine. But Harvey Fierstein deserved better.

dark. Next. Where can you stream Bros online?

Bros is now playing in theatres everywhere.