BROS (Nicholas Stoller). 115 minutes. September 17 at 1 pm, Scotiabank, and 9:30 pm, Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales. See listing. Rating: NNNN
Early on in Bros, BIlly Eichner’s Bobby Leiber is at his Greenwich Village apartment watching You’ve Got Mail while attempting to hook up with some dude on Grindr. That scene encapsulates what the movie – the first major studio release co-written and starring an out gay actor – is aiming to do: namely, be a proudly queer film that follows the classic romantic comedy structure. It succeeds brilliantly.
Bobby is a well-known podcast host who has enough great friends and casual sex to keep him content. As a day job, he helms the board of the first national LGBTQ+ history museum, which is planning its big launch. Things are good. And then, out at a club with sarcastic bestie Henry (Guy Branum, stealing every scene he’s in), he locks eyes with one of the hundreds of shirtless hunks there: Aaron (Canada’s Luke Macfarlane), who seems interested but, like Bobby, isn’t into commitment.
What ensues follows the rom-com formula, except this version includes thruples, poppers and awkward ass selfies. As in Eichner’s Billy On The Street and his cult TV series Difficult People, the pop culture references fly by quickly: Glee, Renée Zellweger, Schitt’s Creek (a running joke). Billy, comparing himself to the gym rats on the dance floor, says he’s like “whatever ends up happening to Evan Hansen.”
The diverse board at the history museum allows Eichner and director/co-writer Nicholas Stoller to both satirize current identity politics and celebrate the queer community’s range of voices and perspectives. What gives the film some depth is its look at the importance of learning about LGBTQ figures, even if, in one of the film’s most savage critiques, they end up eventually being played onscreen by straight actors who go on to win awards (something satirized in the recent Fringe play Gay For Pay With Blake & Clay).
To remedy this, Eichner and Stoller have cast queer actors in pretty much every role. Even the “straight” characters are played by LGBTQ actors, proving that no one ought to be typecast.
The film, like many Judd Apatow-produced movies, feels a little long, especially in the middle. But as with those same Apatow films, it’d be hard to know what to cut. Most of the jokes work, and things that have been set up casually at the start pay off nicely by the end. It’s entertaining just spending time with these characters.
Eichner delivers his one-liners with skill, but he’s equally good in a big extended monologue in which Bobby chronicles his experiences as an out gay artist dealing with outside and internalized homophobia.
Although the film’s conclusion isn’t very surprising, it plays by the genre rules. The difference is in its point of view. Eichner and co. have created a comedy classic that is as likeable and mainstream as its title suggests, but deeply subversive too.