Monday, October 3, 2022

Bros: A Review



It was perhaps inevitable that after Obergefell, we would have a same-sex romantic comedy. Bros touts itself as the first same-sex romantic comedy by a major studio featuring an all LGBTQ+ cast. I think this leaves a false impression that there have never been same-sex romances on film, or that openly gay actors have never played romantic leads gay or straight. 

Be that as it may, we now have this same-sex romcom, and despite the filmmakers' intentions they forgot two elements: the romance and the comedy.

Bobby Leiber (screenwriter Billy Eichner) is a podcaster and director of the soon-to-open LGBTQ+ Museum, which will feature among other things a closing wing detailing the homosexual life of President Abraham Lincoln. He insists he is happy in his misery, made up of Grindr hookups and quipping at all his gay friends' lives.

At the club, he spots the luscious Aaron (Luke MacFarlane), a probate lawyer who like Bobby is not looking for a long-term relationship. He appears more satisfied with being in threesomes than being monogamous. Nevertheless, the rapid-fire Bobby and the more straightlaced Aaron find an attraction to each other. From that, they date and don't date as they navigate group sex, Aaron's desires to be a chocolatier and Bobby's frustrations with opening the LGBTQ+ Museum. 

Will the live-action version of penguins Roy and Silo find true love with each other? 

Bros is not funny or romantic, two things that any romantic comedy should be. It is not funny because from the get-go it is trying too hard. Eichner, who cowrote the script with director Nicholas Stoller, opened with some totally cringeworthy moments that were almost insulting to the audience. At the awards show where Bobby received the "Best Cis White Gay Man of the Year" Award, we see Kristen Chenoweth wearing a large hat that represents the Stonewall Riots. 

Who genuinely thought either bit was funny? I sat there in disbelief that this could possibly have been conceived as amusing.

As if that wasn't already idiotic enough, the Out Athlete Award winner went on and on about how it's much harder being hot than being gay. Did Eichner and Stoller really think this was hilarious? Good comedy can be had from mocking conventions such as self-serious awards, but you have to have some sense of seriousness to sell the comedy. In short, you have to play the situations as if you are not aware that it is "funny". With these bits at the start, you are already telling the audience that you are not even bothering to play the situations seriously but instead screaming that "IT'S FUNNY! LAUGH, YOU PEONS! LAUGH!"

Bros is at times too referential to be seen as funny. Comments about the "serious gay cowboy film" and the lack of same-sex stories in Hallheart Channel films (obviously the Hallmark Channel) are more commentary than actual dialogue. Given that Hallmark is going to have a same-sex romance movie this year, Bros already looks dated. To be fair though, I doubt the upcoming The Holiday Sitter will be anywhere near the suggestion of polyamorous relationships like A Poly Holly Christmas, let alone feature the two male leads masturbating next to each other.

Watching Aaron getting blow jobs from two men simultaneously while also being with Bobby is not going to make most people laugh but gasp. There is another group sex scene where Aaron and his ex-high school hockey teammate start sex with Bobby joining in. The comedy is supposed to come from an uninvited man attempting to jump into the action, but given the muted reaction, I doubt it played as the comedy bit it was intended as. 

Perhaps in the gay community, the top (a man who takes the dominant sexual position) opting to be the bottom (or switching places so that his lover can be the dominant one and he be the submissive one) is a sign of vulnerability and openess. To others, whatever deep meaning will escape them. It is a bit hard to sell the universality of Bros when you have uncomfortable scenes of Grindr hookups that look almost mechanical.  

It also does not help that your lead characters are not worth following. Eichner's Bobby appears to be essentially playing Billy Eichner to where one would not be blamed if they called the character "Billy" versus "Bobby". Billy is too busy being rapid-fire in his delivery and a touch self-righteous to be likeable, let alone anyone to care about. He seems to be always "on", forever talking and annoying everyone around him. When he storms into the Lincoln Letters Wing in what he calls a "roid rage" (having injected himself with steroids to try and bulk up thinking that Aaron likes only buff men), Eichner does not act but spouts his dialogue out. Bobby is always talking to where you think a tranquilizer would do him a world of good.

Bobby is exceptionally unlikeable in how he behaves. When Aaron's mother Anne (Amanda Bearce) says that she thinks second graders might be too young to be exposed to gay history, Bobby/Billy goes into a tear. He goes on a verbal rampage about how his parents when he was 12 took him to see a play, Love and Compassion, which helped our flamboyant tween twink-in-training adjust to his gay life.

As a side note, I think Love and Compassion is meant to be Love! Valour! Compassion!, but I could be wrong.

We were, I presume, meant to sympathize or agree with Billy/Bobby (by this point it was hard to know whether it was the writer or the character making the speech). In reality, you leave this scene thinking that Bobby is bonkers. Anne was perfectly civil and not argumentative, but Billy/Bobby took it as a way to condemn people who do not share his views. He fails to notice that it was his parents' decision to take him to a show that opened with six men exposing themselves.

As a side note, would even New York theaters allow a 12-year-old to attend this Love and Compassion performance? Even openly gay 12-year-olds might get bored and fussy at theaters, so this nugget of Bobby/Billy's formative years sounds suspect, if not implausible. 

The idea that 7-to-8-year old's might not be ready to learn about any kind of sex escapes him, as does the idea that parents should decide what is appropriate for their children. Aaron's outrage is justified, but the film wants us to think him asking Bobby to not berate Aaron's parents is somehow wrong.

Just as one would question whether second graders were mature enough to handle a Holocaust exhibit, one could question whether teaching kids about LGBTQ+ history at that age is a good idea. 

Aaron too is underdeveloped (except for his body). He gets character beats (he, unlike other stereotypical gay men loves Garth Brooks and does not know who Debra Messing is), but he is in his own way shallow and a stereotype of a sexually promiscuous gay man. Bros wants you think he is independent and smart, different from the casual hookups Bobby goes for. However, how he tolerates Bobby is a mystery given how snarky and difficult, almost needy Bobby is.

At one point Aaron tells Billy "You're so smart and funny", and I thought that was Eichner projecting what he thinks of himself versus what Aaron actually thinks. I find it hard to believe someone like Aaron, who is openly yet casually gay and has a better job than Bobby, would endure him as a long-term boyfriend, let alone get weepy over him. Bros, again, wants you to think Bobby is in the right when Aaron gets angry with him when Bobby tells Aaron's mom off. I think Aaron was right in telling him off. MacFarlane to his credit did his absolute best to sell the character, but there was only so much he could do.

I will admit to laughing at a few parts. There's when the bisexual suggests he'd like a Hall of Bisexuals similar to Disney's Hall of Presidents. There's when Bobby, in the midst of his roid rage, attempts to demolish a bust of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg while screaming, "Bye-bye Buttigieg!". The bit about Aaron promoting his newest chocolate creation is amusing. After fulfilling his dream of making chocolates, Aaron sends Bobby a video touting his "Harvey Milk Duds". 

Apart from that though, I found Bros unfunny and unromantic.

Bros is a niche movie, aimed at a very specific, very narrow market. Despite whatever its star and cowriter Eichner may say, Bros is going to be more for LGBTQ+ viewers. Even in that demographic, I think Bros would find only gay men being interested if that. A same-sex romantic comedy can be made, but Bros is not it. Less romantic comedy and more vanity project for Billy Eichner, Bros is too hung up on forcing what humor it has between group sex scenes. If, say perhaps, Bros had been about a Grindr hookup that developed into a genuine romance, we could have had something. However, Bros opted to be less romantic comedy and more sex farce with more sex and less farce. 

After seeing Bros, if I were gay, I would run back into the closet.


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