Director: Nicholas Stoller
Screenwriters: Billy Eichner, Nicholas Stoller
Starring: Billy Eichner, Luke Macfarlane, Guy Branum, Miss Lawrence, TS Madison, Dot-Marie Jones, Jim Rash, Eve Lindley, Kristin Chenoweth, Symone, Debra Messing
“Love is love.” We’ve heard this expression before. It has been chanted at Pride parades and gay rights protests for years. Lin-Manuel Miranda said it at the Tony Awards in 2016. Its hashtag has graced our Twitter feeds.
But… “love is not love.” That is the unexpected message Billy Eichner drives home in his tongue-in-cheek romantic comedy, Bros.
Like many staples of the genre, Bros is set in New York City and follows two people who meet, fall in love, and strive to overcome seemingly impossible differences that test their love. Unlike When Harry Met Sally or You’ve Got Mail, however, this one centres on a gay love story and, according to Matt Lavietes at NBC News, is the first gay rom-com produced by a major Hollywood studio with a predominantly LGBTQ+ cast.
Co-writer Billy Eichner stars as Bobby, a high-strung podcaster and curator of the world’s first LGBTQ+ museum who is comfortable with the single life. But, after one too many awkward Grindr hookups, he meets Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) at a club. While Bobby is lanky, intelligent, and sarcastic, Aaron is ripped, positive, and rumoured to be a bit “boring.” Despite their glaring differences, each man finds the other increasingly intriguing until they finally go on their first date, a big step for two self-proclaimed emotionally unavailable people.
From the start, the film lampoons the straight liberalism that accepts the queer community on its own heteronormative terms. As Bobby passionately states, “love is not love” for many LGBTQ+ people. Their friendships are different, their relationships are different, their sex lives are different. The film doesn’t shy away from discussing polyamory, trans issues, or a lack of unity amongst the L, G, B, T, and Q — (although these diverse perspectives are sidelined by the white, cisgendered romance at the centre of the narrative, a fact that the film jokingly addresses when Bobby is named “Best Cis Male Gay Man” at an
The film’s self-reflexivity goes further to question the mainstream representation of gay stories in Hollywood cinema. No one is safe from Eichner’s characteristic biting sarcasm as he throws shade at Brokeback Mountain, ‘Schitt’s Creek’, and Hallmark. As he says to Aaron, “Straight people love seeing us miserable,” or as boring married couples just like them.
Despite a strong start that unashamedly portrays the complexity of gay relationships and avoids appeasing straight audiences, the film unfortunately slips into the very Hallmark genre conventions it mocks.
As the story moves into its second act, the pacing slows, the characters lose many of their quirks, and the plot becomes… well… generic. Bobby and Aaron face more and more obstacles as they meet their friends and families, hit relationship milestones, and navigate trust, vulnerability, and even a Christmas party. They have predictable arguments and get swallowed up by the typical rom-com narrative arc toward a happy ending.
There’s a reason Hallmark is so popular and Meg Ryan is so rich. These conventions work. We love seeing the boring, messy, and exciting parts of our own love lives played out on screen. Whether someone is gay, straight, bi, trans, or one third of a throuple, there’s something universal about awkward online dating encounters, emotional unavailability, and finally finding another person who cares about you despite those things.
For a film that tries so hard (almost too hard) to be anything but conventional, this lapse into convention extinguishes the spark that makes the beginning fresh and unique. But it’s still funny and, by the end, you’re still rooting for Bobby and Aaron, which is what really matters.
Eichner essentially plays himself, and for anyone familiar with ‘Billy on the Street’ he is just as angry, witty, and relatable as usual. Macfarlane – a Hallmark alum – is warm, charming, and a fitting opposite to Eichner’s cheeky outbursts. Viewers familiar with modern LGBTQ+ culture will be rewarded with cameos by icons like trans activist TS Madison, Broadway phenom Kristin Chenoweth, Debra Messing (who, she reminds us, is more than just Grace from ‘Will & Grace’), and RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13 winner, Symone.
Bros is groundbreaking in many ways, and while the plot isn’t necessarily one of them, it’s still worth a trip to the cinema. Whether love is love or not, you’ll have fun watching Bobby and Aaron figure it out.
Written by Emily Nighman