Directed by: Nicholas Stoller
Premise: A gay activist and podcaster (Billy Eichner) falls for a lawyer (Luke Macfarlane) but both men must reconcile their burgeoning emotional commitment with the lure of a no-strings-attached lifestyle.
What Works: Bros contains two movies. The first is a romantic comedy between two men and the other is a satire about gay activism. Billy Eichner’s character is a commentator who weighs in on LGBTQ issues and he is part of a board overseeing the construction of a gay history museum. This part of the film lampoons the histrionics of contemporary activism and the way concerns for social justice and representation may really be expressions of narcissism. These sequences are many of the best moments in the film and had Bros been primarily focused on the social justice parody with the romantic plot in the background it might have been more successful or at least more interesting.
What Doesn’t: Romance movies succeed or fail depending on the lovers. The filmmakers and the actors must make the audience want to see the couple fall in love and live happily ever after. Bros does not accomplish that. In fact, it does just the opposite. Billy Eichner’s character is so smug and insecure and unpleasant that the idea of this person living happily ever after actually becomes repellant. His would-be partner, played by Luke Macfarlane, endures a barrage of verbal abuse and disrespect. He is seeing other men and virtually all of them are more appealing than Eichner’s character. Aside from one character’s awfulness, the other obstacle to their relationship is a non-committal dating culture. Bros doesn’t seem to know what it is trying to say about that. Eichner’s character is resistant to what he views as heteronormativity and the film entertains other romantic arrangements but in the end the picture reaffirms conventional romantic monogamy. The filmmakers deserve some credit for addressing the issue and presenting sexuality as frankly as they do here but Bros’ romantic critique is toothless and vapid. The film ridicules Hallmark romantic comedies but Bros is fundamentally the same kind of story while posing as something hip and edgy. The museum subplot suffers similarly. This storyline plays as satire but it’s not very cutting or insightful. In fact, it’s not entirely clear that the filmmakers are actually in on the joke.
Disc extras: Deleted scenes, gag reel, and featurettes.
Bottom Line: Bros fails as a romantic comedy and its social satire isn’t very sharp. The film strikes a revolutionary pose but it’s an utterly conventional romantic comedy with a shrill and unlikable relationship at the center of it.
Episode: #935 (January 15, 2023)