BROS – Review
So what if Valentine’s Day is nearly five months away, any time of the year can work for the right romantic comedy (or “rom-com’, its modern genre term). Actually many moviegoers would enjoy seeing an engaging couple meet cute as they try to keep warm on a blustery Fall afternoon. And that’s just what happens with this weekend’s big film release. Oh, things are a bit, no a lot, different this time. It’s not “boy meets girl”, but rather boy, no “man meets man”. Yup, it’s a gay rom-com, though they’ve been supporting players in past flicks, often the next-door neighbor (nuzzling a kitty) or the co-worker who’s cheering on the leading lady (“You go, girl!!”). Not this time. and as one of the film’s co-stars (and co-writers) has been telling talk show hosts and showbiz reporters, there’s a lot riding on this. The major studios are curious to see how the audience will react to a funny love story centered on two very mismatched BROS.
The first part of the duo we meet is the story’s narrator, a pessimistic outspoken podcaster (he’s the host of “The 11th Brick”, a reference to Stonewall), Bobby Lieber (Billy Eichner). He’s got many friends, but aside from late-night phone app “hook-ups”, he’s not found that special “one” (though he denies that he’s looking). And then he saw Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane) dancing shirtless at a club, looking as though he just arrived from Mt. Olympus. Their first encounter is a bit awkward, But Bobby detects a “spark”, though Aaron seems to vanish like Claude Rains (look him up, kids). Eventually they exchange digits and begin a long series of texts to “feel each other out” while acting casual and indifferent. They both continue on with their lives as Bobby is one of the planners and organizers of a soon-to-open LGBTQ+ museum if the board of directors will agree on anything. And if they can score some big cash donations. Meanwhile, Aaron suits up for his 9 to 5 job as an estate planner. Eventually, the two spend the day together as Aaron enjoys Bobby’s snarky wit, while Bobby is dazzled by Aaron’s cocky confidence and that “eight pack”. Their relationship soars during a trip to Provincetown, then almost crashes when Aaron’s school days crush “comes out”. But can the couple survive the biggest “test”, the dreaded Christmas visit with Aaron’s somewhat stuffy parents?
In his feature lead acting debut, Eichner shows that there’s much more to his considerable talents than verbally “ambushing” unsuspecting New Yorkers (though that does take a lot of talent and chutzpah). Sure we’re expecting him to bring the laughs, which he does by the truckload, with scathing asides and gattling-gun barrages of “burns”. But his Bobby’s not merely a joke dispensing machine, he’s a man looking for love, and more importantly perhaps, respect. Eichner delivers a heart-wrenching monologue, offset by a lovely beach, all about growing up with folks who wanted him to “tone it down” and conform to the “norm” leading him to frustration as those with fewer gifts got much farther. There’s the professional longing offset with the personal ones, as he hesitantly decides to offer his heart to Aaron, played by Macfarlane, who also proves that he’s more than a handsome face atop an “etched in granite” body. This guy must project an aura of aloof “coolness”, but he too wants more than the “pleasures of the flesh” to just “hang” with someone interesting. But Macfarlane shows us that the “perfect ten” has his own inner battles, too. Aaron thinks he can’t keep up with Bobby intellectually, plus he has to deal with a touch of “self-loathing’ as he suppresses his true “career calling’ for fear it would re-enforce gender stereotypes. Happily, the duo is surrounded by a wonderful group of great comic actors. Bobby must deal with a terrific but bickering ensemble that makes up the museum’s board, with Oscar-winning screenwriter Jim Rash grabbing lots of chuckles as Robert, who thinks that bisexuals are short-changed (“Not enough ‘B’ in the LGBTQ!”). Then there’s the scene-stealing SNL star Bowen Yang as a petulant, flighty filthy-rich TV producer. Oh, and we’re treated to several stars playing themselves and having a great time skewering their public personas (I won’t spoil the surprise delights).
Oh, did I forget to mention that Eichner co-wrote the screenplay with director Nicholas Stoller (the NEIGHBORS flicks)? Well, consider that slight undone. Stoller keeps the energy flowing smoothly, avoiding the deadly mid-section “lull” of so many comedies. And he confidently hits the comedic “beats”, knowing when to cut in for a superb reaction glare from Bobby, and when to cut in with a quick satiric aside (Bobby’s disastrous audition to be part of a beloved TV quintet). But somehow the comedy doesn’t drown out the tenderness of the romance, perhaps due to that clever screenplay that teases but really embraces all the “romcom” standards: the swooning “meet”, the trepidation, the “city stroll”, the near “bust-up”, and the “declaration”. The terrific jabs at basic cable TV romcom were made better when I learned that Macfarlane had roles in so many of them. Some moviegoers may be more than a tad skittish with this new “twist” on the beloved genre, but considering the tepid recent entries, this new spin is just the thing to recharge the staple. Those who take a chance will be richly rewarded with the engaging and really funny love story all about these BROS.
3.5 Out of 4
BROS is now playing in theatres everywhere