Bros is promoting itself as the first gay rom-com with an LGBTQ+ cast from a major studio. When I first heard that, I initially thought to myself, “The first? No, that can’t be right. Could’ve sworn…” Browsing through the history of LGBTQ+ films, I quickly found that Bros is indeed a landmark. There have been rom-coms centered on same-sex couples, some of which even starred members of the LGBTQ+ community like The Birdcage and Happiest Season. When it comes to across-the-board representation, though, few mainstream LGBTQ+ movies have gotten it right like Bros. Nicholas Stoller’s film isn’t just about acceptance. Above all else, it’s about laughing.
Stoller also co-wrote the screenplay, but this is Billy Eichner’s baby. In addition to co-writing, Eichner stars as Bobby Lieber, a middle-aged gay comedian who hosts a podcast. To an extent, Eichner is playing himself, but he reveals parts of himself we never saw on Billy on the Street or Parks and Recreation. While Eichner’s vocal confidence is on full display, Bros taps into his struggles and vulnerabilities. Bobby finds himself opening up to Luke Macfarlane’s Aaron, a hunky gay man who loves Garth Brooks and The Hangover. While Aaron seems tailormade for a Grindr hookup, Bobby is surprised to find they may possess a deeper connection.
Bros makes biting commentary on just about every movie and show that’s explored LGBTQ+ themes, namely AIDS and cowboy dramas starring straight actors trying to win Oscars. In one of the film’s most meta moments, a studio asks Eichner to write a gay rom-com that’s just like a straight rom-com. Eichner immediately shoots this idea down, dishing out how gay dating differs from straight dating. That’s not to say Bros is without its rom-com tropes, especially during its third act. Even at its most familiar, though, Bros feels fresh. Part of that’s because of Eichner’s distinct voice, but Bros is also an honest glimpse into the gay dating game.
Eichner and Macfarlane have a funny, heartfelt opposites attract dynamic, leading an ensemble without a weak link. Jim Rash is especially hilarious as the bisexual Robert, who constantly clashes with Bobby over an exhibit at the LGBTQ+ History Museum. Bowen Yang makes the most of his limited screen time as an eccentric gay millionaire. It should be noted that Yang recently starred in Fire Island, another rom-com with an LGBTQ+ cast. It’s debatable if Yang’s film beat Bros to the punch, as Fire Island is technically an indie movie with less than half the budget. In any case, it’s great that we got both of these movies within only three months of each other. Hopefully, it doesn’t end there.
Whenever a milestone like Bros comes along, it’s not uncommon for Hollywood to say, “Okay, you got one! Let’s go back to the status quo!” With any luck, Bros will go down as the first movie of its kind rather than a standalone entity. For the time being, Bros is the rainbow standard with its hilarious mix of heart and raw honesty. A few moments might prove too honest for some viewers, particularly an awkward dinner table conversation. Those conversations aren’t easy, but they deserve our attention. Between the cringes, you might even find the humor in it.