Romcoms are supposed to supply lighthearted escapism, but this one arrives in the UK under a cloud of discontent. Bros has been proudly trumpeted as “the first gay romantic comedy from a major studio featuring an entirely LGBTQ principal cast”, but good intentions alone weren’t enough to make it a game-changing hit.
After it performed poorly in the US earlier this month, grossing just $4.8 million over its opening weekend, co-writer and star Billy Eichner vented his frustrations away on Twitter – rarely a good idea. “Even with glowing reviews, great Rotten Tomatoes scores, an A CinemaScore etc, straight people, especially in certain parts of the country, just didn’t show up for Bros. And that’s disappointing but it is what it is,” he lamented.
Eichner has since deleted his inflammatory Twitter thread, but the damage was already done. Now, Bros wasn’t just a “flop”, but one whose failure was being picked apart in countless thinkpieces. Some commentators pointed out, in a harsh but fair kind of way, that the film’s takings were so low that swathes of LGBTQ people clearly weren’t persuaded to “show up for Bros” either.
All of this is a real shame, because Bros is a cut above most romcoms for one simple reason: it’s funnier. The script, which Eichner co-wrote with the film’s director Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, Bad Neighbours), is probably sharpest when it’s poking fun at infighting between different subsections of the LGBTQ community. At one point, Eichner’s character Bobby explains the difference between his generation and younger queer people by quipping: “We had AIDS; they had Glee.”
Along the way, there are creasing cameos from Will & Grace star Debra Messing, who gamely sends up her gay icon status, and Saturday Night Live cast member Bowen Yang, who plays a powerful, Ryan Murphy-style TV exec. His proviso for donating to the National LGBTQ History Museum that Bobby is putting together? That it includes a fantastically tasteless rollercoaster ride called “The Haunted House of Gay Trauma”.
Bros is pretty bold in places, too. There are several gay sex scenes, including one soundtracked sublimely by Joan Armatrading‘s ‘Love And Affection’, and others showing the prevalence of steroid use among gay men who want to attain the buff body deemed desirable on dating apps. This issue could have been explored further, but the fact it’s acknowledged at all feels significant.
But if the “com” hits the spot, the “rom” feels a bit more rote. The plot follows Eichner’s Bobby, an abrasively charismatic museum curator, as he falls for Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), a buff lawyer who’s dismissed by Bobby’s best mate Henry (Guy Branum) as “very hot but very boring”. They meet cute on a club floor, where Bobby chides Aaron for not recognising the Mariah Carey remix that’s playing, but things don’t look promising when Aaron rushes off to have a threesome with two other guys. The film’s tension derives from whether outspoken, out-and-proud Bobby and relaxed, “straight-acting” Aaron are really good match after all. In all honesty, they’re never entirely convincing as a couple, but it’s still fun watching them bond, break up, and inevitably get back together again.
Bros isn’t as transcendent as the classic romcoms it references, When Harry Met Sally and Dirty Dancing, and it can’t be quite as important as it wants to be. Though the supporting cast is drawn from across the LGBTQ spectrum, it’s still a film about two conventionally attractive white gay men falling in love. Still, anyone who does decide to show up for Bros this weekend should have a really good time.
- Director: Nicholas Stoller
- Starring: Billy Eichner, Luke Macfarlane, Bowen Yang
- Release date: October 28 (UK cinemas)