- Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
- Starring: Billy Eichner, Luke Macfarlane
- Romance/Comedy | R | 1 hr 55 min
By Reed Ripley
There’s nothing complicated about Bros’ setup; it’s a rom-com about two people in their early 40s learning to accept the vulnerability necessary to have a committed relationship. But that’s the point: the complexity comes from the emotional and cultural nuances of being in a modern gay relationship, as Bros is the first widely-released, big-studio rom-com that features a gay relationship.
That’s all well and good, but representation alone does not make a good film. Thankfully, Bros delivers with a ton of humor and heart, thanks largely to Billy Eichner, who obviously poured his life experience into the film. The film’s clear goal is to provide an authentic depiction of a gay relationship, within LGBTQ+ culture, without watering down to appease wider audiences. That authenticity not only provides an untold (at least at this level of production), and therefore inherently engaging, story, but also unlocks its humor and emotional depth.
Bros is extremely smart and funny, and its best jokes and physical comedy come from knowing (and loving) jabs at gay culture and history. The film isn’t populated with stereotypical smart, witty, one-note gay men often depicted in film and television. A lot of the men in Bros are dumb and pumped up with testosterone, which, of course, is the reality. Two men in a relationship is inherently different than a man and a woman, and the film’s embracing of that concept produces excellent comedy that eventually gives way to an emotionally rich story.
This is definitely Eichner’s film, with director/writer Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Neighbors) seemingly brought in simply as a veteran comedic filmmaker to keep things on track. Eichner’s vision makes things work, but everything not directly Eichner-centric falls a little flat. That includes Eichner’s co-lead and love interest, Luke Macfarlane’s character; all the right beats are there, but it can’t compete next to the depth and effectiveness of Eichner’s performance.
The length is an issue, too, which isn’t surprising given this is a Judd Apatow production. Apatow and Apatow-adjacent features have a strong tendency to stretch their runtimes (Knocked Up, Funny People, Bridesmaids, etc.) under an apparent mandate to get to around two hours, no matter what, and Bros is no different.
That’s not a death knell, as some (probably most) of the Apatow productions are truly great, notwithstanding their bloat. But there’s always an extra 20 minutes or so that just isn’t necessary, and in Bros, you can feel that in the middle, after the zingers run out of steam and before the film’s emotional weight kicks in. However, like Apatow’s greatest, Bros is bursting with humor and heart, and its highs far outweigh its lows.
Bros is not shy about telling you exactly what it wants to be: a hall-of-fame rom-com on par with the When Harry Met Sally’s and You’ve Got Mail’s of the world (the film directly references both). Not because it’s a gay rom-com, but because it’s a great rom-com. Does it quite get to those heights? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great.
Rom-coms fell away over the past few decades not because audiences got bored with the genre, but because audiences got bored with the same formula, from the same perspective, repeatedly. Following in the footsteps of contemporary rom-coms like The Big Sick and Crazy Rich Asians, Bros gives us something different and refreshing, albeit while embracing that same familiar formula.
Reed Ripley is a local attorney with a flare for watching movies. You can find more of his reviews at Ripleysreviews.com