Our society has evolved to a point of aiming for inclusion, seeking to serve underrepresented audiences and tell their stories in a way that the world can see. Yet such efforts, while typically well-intentioned, don’t always achieve what they mean to be, and often end up undercutting the very populations they aim to showcase in the pursuit of something accessible and universal. When people from minority or marginalized communities are the ones in charge, however, the result can be far more successful and affirming. Bros manages to both send up and be what it is that it’s parodying – a romantic comedy about gay people that will still play well to a straight audience.
Bobby Leiber (Billy Eichner) is a single gay man living in New York City who hosts a popular podcast that discusses a range of subjects about queer culture and his personal life. As he celebrates reaching one million subscribers, he announces the launch of a passion project: a museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ history. As he clashes with other planners for the museum vision who want to highlight the achievements and experiences with which they most closely associate, Bobby is surprised to meet Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), whose demeanor is quite different from his own and who Bobby finds himself quite enchanted by, even if both he and Aaron purport not to want a serious relationship.
Much has been made about Eichner’s drive as a co-writer and executive producer to cast LGBTQ+ actors in every role, even those which are straight in the film. It’s an exciting prospect, one that signals a proactive determination to create opportunities for inclusion when the casting process might otherwise have been indifferent to sexual orientation and gender identity. Eichner doesn’t stop there, as the script he co-wrote with director Nicholas Stoller is full of references to the many actors who have won Oscars for playing gay and the apparent desire for audiences to see LGBTQ+ suffer on screen rather than get a happy ending.
This film does its best to correct that unfortunate history, infusing tremendous humor into its creation of a film about LGBTQ+ people that isn’t full of misery or despair. There is drama to be found, just as in every story, but it’s much more to support the overarching, and often over-the-top, comedic themes. Bobby and Aaron’s flirting is entertaining, and the development of their relationship takes many turns, some outrageous and hilarious and others mildly concerning and threatening to the stability of what they are building. Two people being unalike can be a good thing, but it can also lead to problems when they don’t see eye-to-eye, which can be both funny and worrisome.
Eichner has unsurprisingly written the best lines for himself, and he talks at such a rapid pace that it’s very possible audiences will miss a good deal of the social commentary he’s providing in his witty rants. The film makes excellent use of its many players, particularly Symone, Eve Lindley, Monica Raymund, Dot-Marie Jones, and Jim Rash as Bobby’s colleagues working to design the museum. Macfarlane is a particular delight, exhibiting great chemistry with Eichner and a fun screen presence. This is the kind of film that demands to be seen with an audience since the experience of seeing it with others will surely enhance its entertainment value. This movie, for many, will be a chance to be seen and recognized, and it succeeds both at being groundbreaking in nature and very effective as a lighthearted comedy.
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Following its world premiere as a Special Presentation at the Tribeca International Film Festival, Bros will be released in theaters on Friday, September 30th.