This Is The Problem With Modern Rom-Coms, According To Bros Director Nicholas Stoller

While Billy Eichner is certainly not the first person to bring explicitly queer stories to a mass audience, I do agree with him about the viability of bringing joyful queer stories to the big screen. Streamers have been beating studios at their own game with the releases of "Fire Island" and "Crush" this year alone. But then that opens up a bigger conversation about queer folks being represented on theaters screens in the same manner as heterosexual folks. Unfortunately, the release of "Bros" has made this a bit more complicated.

After an extensive marketing campaign, "Bros" sadly underperformed at the box office, raking in just under $9 million against a $22 million budget so far. The film stars Billy Eichner as Bobby, a self-professed loner whose cracks start to get filled in once he stumbles onto a beautiful man named Aaron (Luke Macfarlane). Despite taking jabs at the romantic comedy complex, "Bros" ultimately falls into many of the same cliches — but the heart and soul behind this love story, at times, makes it feel both new and familiar.

In many ways, "Bros" does feel like a breakthrough, which makes it depressing to think of the lesson studios will take from this. There are so many factors that went into the box office disappointment, after all. No one movie should carry the burden of success for an entire subgenre.

Blame has essentially been hurled at straight and gay folks for not showing up, so the question remains: what went wrong here?

Nicholas Stoller believes that comedy has always been propelled by blossoming talent

A common complaint lobbied against "Bros" was that Eichner, best known for his television show "Billy on the Street," was simply not a movie star. While Eichner's presence on the big screen hasn't been as huge as some others, it's worth noting that he's a part of the eigth highest grossing film of all time with 2019's "The Lion King." It's not a good movie, but if money talks in this industry, it's something to consider.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, director Nicholas Stoller went to bat for the film's lead and co-writer, saying that some of the biggest comedy hits of the past two decades have derived from talent moving from television to the big screen. "With comedy, it's always fresh talent that makes big, massive hits, at least since I've started doing it," says Stoller.

The "Neighbors" filmmaker goes on to cite names like Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, and Steve Carell as examples of comedy stars making the transition to the screen, with many of their debut theatrical comedies now regarded as cornerstones of the genre:

"It's fresh voices that make these movies work so well because it's something you've never seen before. And the cast was so good. They're so funny. I also do think people — and this is based purely on subject matter, not based on anything — had a feeling that it was good for them and not actually funny and entertaining."

Stoller makes a great point, but there are so many other factors at work here for the film's disappointment.

Guy Branum believes that the box office results of Bros stems from an industry double standard

While Stoller brings up a great point in his words, "Bros" producer and actor Guy Branum also makes you ponder the industry hypocrisy about the stars that often drive these vehicles (via The Hollywood Reporter):

"The problem with that is that proven A-list stars are more often than not white. They are by and large heterosexual cis people. We have to figure out what the path is because the frustrations with 'Bros' came from all sides."

Branum, who is hysterically funny in "Bros," talked about how he feels the criticism of having two white gay men at the center of a romantic comedy is something that likely won't transpire with the upcoming release of the George Clooney and Julia Roberts rom-com vehicle, "Ticket to Paradise:"

"I do not think that we will have the same kind of uproar that there are two whites as people at the center of 'Ticket to Paradise' because we all know and love Julia Roberts and George Cooney and are excited to go see a movie about them. But I'm not willing to accept a world where only the white cis straight people who were famous in 1997 get to be able to have a big, funny comedy that people can enjoy in the theater."

It's a very messy situation that has everyone looking for answers, and I don't believe there is a singular reason why it bombed.

The existence of queer rom-coms shouldn't be at the mercy of one underperforming film

In the end, it feels like a little bit of everything. Eichner wasn't enough of a draw for queer audiences, in addition to shaming people for not seeing it. There's also the rampant rise of homophobia in the United States, which doesn't exactly give confidence in movie theaters as a safe space. There's also the nature of comedies finding more success on streaming platforms than in theaters. You also have to consider the wave of horror movies such as "Barbarian" and "Smile" dominating the box office in the midst of spooky season. More than one thing can be true, but it still sucks.

It truly bummed me out to see "Bros" become this casualty of the box office and the discourse surrounding it. Seeing a queer love story in theaters that isn't rooted in trauma, internalized homophobia, or a general sense of mockery, was cathartic. I do believe "Bros" will find its success in time, especially once it gets to streaming. That's how this routine usually goes.

However, I fear that everything surrounding "Bros" will diminish the possibility of another explicitly queer love story like this making it to over 3,000 screens. The fact that this is an issue shouldn't be laid at the feet of "Bros," but the cis straight white-dominated industry as a whole.

Queer love stories of every kind deserve their movie star moment as much as a Clooney and Roberts joint. We already know Michael Showalter's "Spoiler Alert" is set for release later this Christmas, so will that be the next championed breadwinner, or another queer scapegoat as to why these movies aren't viable under a major studio?

"Bros" is now playing in theaters.