Bros movie review: great fun, with good intentions, but it could get off its high horse

Billy Eichner, left, and Luke Macfarlane in Bros (Nicole Rivelli/Universal Pictures)
Billy Eichner, left, and Luke Macfarlane in Bros (Nicole Rivelli/Universal Pictures)

There’s so much to applaud about this touching, hilarious and frequently graphic gay rom-com, which flopped at the US box office, causing leading man Billy Eichner (also the film’s co-writer) to tweet, “Everyone who ISN’T a homophobic weirdo should go see BROS tonight!”

Are you surprised to learn that, in the film itself, abrasive hero Bobby rails against homophobia, even when it would be politic to keep shtum? Bobby and his creator are diplomacy-averse. Good for them.

Bobby is a fortysomething podcaster, charged with curating a ground-breaking exhibition at New York City’s LGBTQ+ museum. In between rowing with his savvy and amusingly volatile co-workers (Ts Madison, Miss Lawrence, Dot-Marie Jones, Jim Rash, Eve Lindley), Bobby meets genial, hunky estate lawyer Aaron (Luke Macfarlane).

In a standout scene Bobby, in an attempt to prove his masculinity, starts biffing Aaron. It’s sexy, funny, and very edgy. Bobby may be an insecure nerd, but his rage is palpable.

Aaron’s laconic style, we gradually discover, is a front (we see him with his perky, conservative with a small ‘c’ mum and his desire to please is bright-eyed and desperate in just the right way). Macfarlane oozes confused sweetness, just as he’s meant to, and he and Eichner have a lovely rapport.

Not everything about Bros works, though. Bobby’s encounter with a hyper-butch gym bunny feels like a bad skit, while the plot thread concerning Aaron’s job (overnight, he becomes a successful sweet-treats entrepreneur) is both implausible and generic. The film has a mean-spirited streak, too. There’s a sequence in which a foursome almost takes place that asks us to roll our eyes at a short, goofy-looking bloke. It’s meant to be fun. It’s really not. As for Nicholas Stoller’s direction, it’s stolid to a fault.

Bobby keeps slagging off “safe” cultural touch-stones (Brokeback Mountain, Call Me By Your Name). Yes, Bros is the first studio-funded gay rom-com to get a theatrical release, but it’s not as consistently powerful as the popular films it casts shade on, or the indie hits it doesn’t even bother to acknowledge (set against a naturalistic British gem like Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, Bros seems deeply contrived and self-serving).

Bros is a showcase for Eichner’s many gifts (when Bobby sings, people gush and clap). The man is talented. Truly great, except when singing his own praises.

In cinemas