Hilarious. Authentic. Energetic. Outrageous. Revolutionary. These are all words that can be applied to two of the most important rom-coms of our time: 1989's "When Harry Met Sally" and 2022's "Bros."
Comparing it to "When Harry Met Sally" is the highest compliment I can think to give "Bros," a movie with some of the sharpest dialogue, funniest scenes and the most likable characters that I've seen in a romantic comedy in quite some time. Like Nora Ephron's legendary "When Harry Met Sally" script, Billy Eichner and Nicholas Stoller's words burst off of the screen with an urgency and with incredible insightfulness. This is a movie that has something to say...hell, it has LOTS to say, and there is so much to discover brimming beneath the surface. Even on the surface, it's the funniest movie of the year.
Roger Ebert (my second Roger Ebert quote in as many reviews - see my review of "Hocus Pocus 2" for more) once said that films should be reviewed relative to genre, and if that's so, then "Bros" is definitely deserving of Mount Rushmore rom-com status.
"Bros" gives a confident, yet not sugar-coated view, of a modern gay man looking for love in the city. Bobby (Eichner), who refers to himself as a "bottom," is a successful podcaster who is knee-deep in opening up New York City's first-ever LGBTQ+ Museum. Heading to a club with his platonic friend, Henry (Guy Branum), he runs into Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), and the two have instant chemistry together.
Something about both of them resonates as something new, something different, than just the random Tinder hook-ups they may have been accustomed to. There are some conventional situations that Bobby and Aaron endure - meeting the parents, determining relationship boundaries, balancing work and play - but for many, their story will unabashedly pull back the curtain on LGBTQ+ lifestyle, in all of its glamour, glory and grievances.
Beyond the central story though, are so many clever insights..."Bros" embraces all of the LGBTQ+ community, and even some of the hypocrisies that exist within. Many know that the idea of "labels" or trying to define someone based on their sexuality, for example, is a major concern for many LGBTQ+ members. Even so, the board of Bobby's museum planning team is made up by one representative of each LGBTQ+ pillar, and their personalities reinforce many of the common stereotypes associated with each. This is satire though, not exploitation. And its these peripheral characters (like Dot-Marie Jones as the resident lesbian, and Jim Rash as the resident Bisexual) that provide many of the laugh-out-loud moments.
As much as the script has to say, you can also feel how many LGBTQ+ actors and actresses wanted to break-in to the movie. Longtime LGBTQ+ advocate, Amanda Bearse plays Aaron's mother for example...and is she stuffy and not accepting of her son's boyfriend Bobby? Or is that just their perception of her? "Queer Eye" star Jai Rodriguez plays Bobby's straight brother, a reversal of the old Hollywood trope (of a straight man playing gay) if there ever was one. Current SNL It-Boy, Bowen Yang is a millionaire who decides to help out Bobby's museum, but only if they include a "Gay Trauma" rollercoaster in its final wing.
Even Debra Messing shows up, in a hilarious cameo, since having been a part of "Will & Grace" she is every gay person's best friend and confidant. Yes, even these "woke" members of the LGBTQ+ community still stereotype and pigeon-hole others based on what they know about them on TV...it seems that trying to label and make sense of the world is not exclusively reserved for straight folk, but may be part of the human condition after all.
LGBTQ programming for straight people also takes a beating, satirically, from Bobby's anger towards "Schitt's Creek" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" to "inclusive" movies aimed at LGBTQ+ on the Hallmark Channel.
In celebrating the history of LGBTQ+ for the museum, the committee realizes that much of its own history actually a downer for many. How do you untangle Gay Pride from the real persecution, execution and struggle of those who couldn't live their truth? How do you not mention the AIDS epidemic?
Like the very best of the rom-com genre, "Bros" is heavy on the heart just as it is the laughs. I was absolutely blindsided, for example, by a song that comes later in the film, sang by Eichner's character to Aaron's character, a scene like we've seen countless times in other rom-coms. The song, "Love is Not Love" perfectly encapsulates what old, curmudgeonly straight people don't understand about the LGBTQ+ community, and beautifully lays out the connection between these two souls who have found one another, despite all odds and on the backs of so many who have sacrificed or have fallen short before them.
Dammit, here I go with my Roger Ebert obsession again. But Ebert once famously said, "The movies are like a machine that generates empathy." Empathy, as defined, is "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." Thank you Billy Eichner and Nicholas Stoller and those involved with "Bros," for proving that this machine is still working for us all.
I'm a straight man and I loved "Bros." And the only reason I felt the need to share that is to potentially compel others who may be somehow afraid or uncomfortable of "Bros," and who might decide to keep it at arm's length due to their own internal issues. As "When Harry Met Sally" laid bare so many unspoken truths about men and women and how they each approach love and relationships, "Bros" does the same - and as effectively - just only those between two men instead.
We don't get movies like this that often, and we'd all be better off embracing "Bros" for what it is: The funniest film of 2022, the most authentic film of 2022 and perhaps - if anyone has the guts to say it - one of the best films of 2022.
Genre: Comedy, Romance.
Run Time: 1 hour 55 minutes.
Starring: Billy Eichner, Luke Macfarlane, Guy Branum, Miss Lawrence, TS Madison, Dot-Marie Jones, Jim Rash, Eve Lindley, Amanda Bearse, Debra Messing, Bowen Yang.
Written by Billy Eichner and Nicholas Stoller.
Directed by Nicholas Stoller ("Storks," "Neighbors," "The Five-Year Engagement," "Get Him to the Greek," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall").
"Bros" is in theaters on Friday, September 30th, 2022.
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