The queer milestone is rather stale in its rom and coms
LGBTQ subjects in films are slowly seeping into the mainstream, especially for movies that aren’t about queer trauma. We’ve had a slow chipping away at the romantic comedy genre, especially in streaming, with films such as The Half of It (2020) and Happiest Season (2020). However, a queer and unabashed romantic comedy from a mainstream studio hasn’t been visible, until now.
Bros (2022) follows romantic cynic Bobby (Billy Eichner), who is heading the curation of a new National LGBTQ Museum in New York. The grumpy Bobby is challenged to mellow his negative attitude to love when he meets hunky lawyer Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), and the two supposed opposites take a liking to each other.
Bros is directed by Nicholas Stoller and written by him and Eichner. The film plays out largely as a typical rom-com, hitting all your familiar beats with a predictable pace; the twist with Bros being that our two main subjects are gay men. Eichner and Stoller’s script crafts some funny scenes, which will elicit a chuckle or two from viewers, but it plays it too conventionally (by narrative standards) to stand out comedically. In fact, what felt most refreshing with Bros was seeing a legitimate romantic comedy play in theaters instead of their usual home of streamers. Sadly, because of Bros’ rather cookie-cutter plot and structure, it can’t quite dissipate an aura of “forgetful weekly Netflix rom-com,” and you’re rather surprised when the lights come up at the end of the film, and you find yourself in a theater.
Stoller has made some effective comedies in the past, he broke through with Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and was successful with Neighbors (2014). However, he’s also delivered some duds that feel like a film sleepwalking itself to completion (see Get Him to the Greek (2010) and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)). Bros seems to fall into the latter category, with Stoller not really delivering much direction or tonal control. Instead, the film becomes Eichner’s vehicle. Eichner, has developed a winning no-nonsense persona over the years, and in Bros he essentially is playing this well-known persona of his instead of a character. The issue with this center of gravity is when the story or different tonal characters clash with it. Touching moments, or the semblance of character arcs are abandoned for comedic rants instead, robbing the film of emotional depth.
This lack of direction is also apparent in the poor editing of the story. Bros juts around from scene to scene in jarring transitions with no set-up, provoking chronological confusion. This lack of a fluid story makes many sequences feel like there’s an entire scene missing. As such, plot beats appear more obvious as there is little story or immersion to misdirect with, and thus makes Bros feel maddeningly predictable. Likewise, there is some poor ADR work done, so that some scenes had the dialogue and mouth movements completely unsynchronized. This poor editing is both on the editor’s part as much as the director, who couldn’t quite stitch his story together to make a cohesive whole.
As such, Bros ends up being an important romantic comedy in terms of representation, yet a rather stale one on the entertainment side. There are chuckles here and there, and the predictable flows of a rom-com canprove comforting, but you can’t help but demand more from a theatrically released film.