Bros Review: The Queer Rom-Com We All Desperately Need Right Now [TIFF]

On those rare special occasions, a movie finds the power to unite a generation — and based on the audience reception at the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of "Bros," I think this Billy Eichner-led comedy is going to be one such film. In fact, I will be shocked if "Bros" doesn't take home TIFF's People's Choice Award. 

Directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by Nicholas Stoller and Billy Eichner, "Bros" is an uproariously funny Queer rom-com about two "emotionally unavailable" (cis white) men. Eichner plays Bobby Lieber, a cranky, perpetually single 40-year-old podcaster known for dedicating his life to promoting LGBTQ+ history. When he crosses paths with Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), a very fit, very fine, man who is much less boring than he first appears, sparks fly. What follows is an unconventional love story that — although is diverts from and subverts many of the tropes we've grown accustomed to in the genre — feels honest and real for anyone with experience in LGBTQ+ spaces.  

"Bros" was a surprisingly sweet love story, but also a love letter for the greater LGBTQ+ community. Every supporting character — even the smaller roles, like Eve Lindley's Instagram-savvy trans woman or Jim Rash's frustrated bisexual wanting to be seen — felt fully realized. It helps that they're filling archetypes that we rarely see in mainstream films but we all know. I saw so many of my friends represented in this film, and I didn't realize how badly I needed that until after watching.

Laughing and crying

Let's be clear though: "Bros" isn't great because it has groundbreaking representation — it's great because it has that and is genuinely hilarious. I laughed so hard I literally cried my makeup off. There are some very very funny gags here that people not in the know won't get, but those who are will find hysterical. The meta jokes are simply fantastic. There's a running gag about "Hallheart Channel" movies, a clear analogue for the Hallmark Channel — not only is the satire itself razor-sharp and brilliant but it's all made so much funnier when you remember that co-star Macfarlane has starred in a bunch of those films. 

Billy Eichner is, predictably, hysterical as the high-strung, outspoken Bobby; this is probably his funniest performance to date, and I can see many more opportunities coming his way thanks to this role. The casting in "Bros" is spot on. The sassy, slightly pathetic best friend Henry is played with just the right amount of self-awareness by comedian Guy Branum; although he doesn't get a lot of screen time, his line deliveries got some of the night's biggest laughs. Debra Messing gets a cameo playing herself that I'm sure was deeply satisfying to film. I could go on. 

The frank, matter-of-fact approach to discussing the gay lifestyle in "Bros" is refreshing and one of the film's most compelling elements. The movie opens with a staunch proclamation that "love is not love," and that comparing gay relationships to straight relationships is problematic. The rest of the 115-minute run-time is spent both demonstrating the differences while also normalizing them. We get some sex scenes — both funny and sweet — as well as kissing, dancing, and dating. Does this represent all LGBTQ+ love stories? Obviously not, but it does feel like a welcome step in the right direction in terms of representation.

The trappings of the genre

While "Bros" is hilarious, and the subject matter and approach somewhat subversive, it is still a romantic comedy. It is also produced by Judd Apatow. There's a flavor to the comedy here that shares familiar notes with some of Apatow's other works, for better or for worse: like the cringe-comedy gags that rely of uncomfortable situations to get laughs, lots of pop culture references, and the occasional, somewhat stale, bit. Some of these jokes didn't land, while others got a few chuckles simply by virtue of the existing comedic momentum. Some of this I suspect was deliberate throwbacks to '90s rom-coms ("You've Got Mail" even gets an explicit reference) but it doesn't all work. 

The film is also a little on the long side at 115 minutes, and it doesn't really have the story to support that. The final act feels drawn out, with a contrived conflict that doesn't really fit the established character motivations, and a few gag scenes that, while funny, didn't serve the narrative. 

Apart from those few flaws, "Bros" is a brilliant testament to Queer culture, Queer stories, and Queer humor. It's a must-see film for anyone in the community and those not in the community. As the character Bobby Lieber argues, we could all stand to learn a bit more LGBTQ+ history.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10