Billy Eichner's Bros is so much better than it has any right to be.
While it was marketed as a "groundbreaking" film, and the "first of its kind," Bros is actually better marketed as one of the best romantic comedies of the past decade.
Starring Eichner, who co-wrote the script with director Nicholas Stoller, Bros follows a jaded gay man named Bobby who meets and falls for a man named Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), who he normally wouldn't fall for. It hits a ton of the classic rom-com beats, but also changes the genre to fit queer characters. Instead of straight problems, the movie deals with steroids, masc4masc culture, body image issues, and more.
Bros is also nonstop hilarious, and while it has plenty of jokes for all audiences, the jokes for queer audiences hit especially hard (these are the kinds of jokes my friends and I tell each other in real life!). Every single cast member also nails it, delivering great performance all around. Eichner is also a total stud in his first starring film role as a new type of romantic lead who sets up a blueprint for future queer leads in movies. Bobby is a total, unashamed f*ggot, and that makes him hot and desirable. He's not a catch despite being himself, he's a catch because he's fully himself in a way that more queer people wish they could be.
While Eichner has long been known for his comedy (and that certainly shines in Bros), it's his emotional, earnest monologues that really sell his performance.
Throughout the movie, Bobby (a podcaster and queer historian), talks about the first time he saw naked gay men, finding community and people who are like him, shame and being "too gay," and the importance of queer history.
Yes, it's a little bit of Eichner standing on a soapbox and delivering speeches about his values, but that's the same format we've loved in rom-coms like Jerry Maguire, Garden State, and High Fidelity. Now, we finally get to see a gay man doing it.
He also gets to show off his singing skills in a country song styled after Garth Brooks that brought the gay people in my screening to tears.
Romantic comedies have been experiencing a resurgence -- especially on streaming -- lately, and Bros is one of the best romantic comedies we've had since the heyday of the genre in the 2000s.
Still, despite all of this, Bros has flopped at the box office, earning just $4.8 million during its opening weekend (about half of the $8-$10 million it was projected to garner). Eichner tweeted that the box office numbers are because straight people didn't go out and see it, but the movie is also getting a fair amount of hate from queer would-be-viewers. And why is that?
One theory is that much of the marketing for Bros was centered around the film being an important political statement and history for the LGBTQ+ community. We were told going to see it would be sticking it to all the homophobes and transphobes across America and the world, showing that there are more people who support and love gay people than who hate us.
If there's one thing gays hate more than boring straight romances, it's being told what to do and what should be important to us. This can be especially true of young queer people, who are often quick to reject anything that older generations (including millennials) of queer people tell them is important.
Perhaps a lot of queer fans rejected the film because they were told this movie about two cis, white gay men falling in love was supposed to be a radical act of political rebellion, and one of the most important things they could do this fall when laws are banning trans kids from transitioning, gay marriage might be overturned, and hate crimes are still being committed.
Unfortunately, the movie is also getting another type of criticism, centered around how "annoying" Eichner is, and therefore how annoying his character and movie are. But what exactly do people mean when they say Eichner is annoying?
Usually, it's a loaded statement that means that they hate his yelling about Broadway and Oscar-winning actresses, his obsession with pop culture, his voice, his mannerisms and excitement, and everything else that makes him, as Bros puts it, "f*ggy."
I'm sorry, but there are plenty of straight actors, like Chris Pratt, Harry Styles, and Jared Leto, who are also perceived to be annoying (both in real life and in their roles), but even when they play gay or queer roles, people still go to see them. How are they different from Eichner? And what makes Eichner so much more unpalatable than them?
When Netflix released the trailer for the adult animated show Q-Force, many millennial and Gen Z queer fans immediately dismissed it as being full of tired stereotypes, boring derivative characters, and old gay jokes. They saw a drag queen character named Twink and immediately declared that he was an insult to "real gay people" and that his name was a slur. They criticized the show for making the characters "all about their queerness" as if this made them bad queer characters.
For people who actually watched the show, Q-Force was an entirely different experience. Those characters who were decried as tired stereotypes were actually some of the most realistic and relatable queer characters ever on TV. They just weren't the kind of queer characters online people want to see.
Eichner even directly addresses this issue in the movie. In one of the pivotal scenes, Aaron is pleading with Bobby to be "less" himself when he's meeting his parents and brother for the first time. He wants Bobby to "tone it down" and "be less annoying," but what he's really asking is for Bobby to be less "f*ggy."
That's what a lot of queer fans seem to want from Eichner as well. They want him to stop shouting, to stop talking about Sex and the City, to stop waving his hands around. They want him to use a "normal" voice like a "normal" gay person.
But Bros isn't about "normal" gay people. As Bobby sings in the climax, "Love Is Not Love." Gay people are not the same as straight people, gay behavior is not the same thing as straight behavior. Unfortunately, when Eichner leans into that gay behavior in real life, he's told the same thing his character is told in the movie.
Even if Bros isn't the most radical act you can take, it's more powerful than a lot of people are giving it credit for.
In a time when TERFs, the "Drop the T" movement, and gay Republicans are trying to divide the LGBTQ+ community, and especially kick trans and gender nonconforming people out of the community, Bros says that staying together is the only way we can win.
While Bobby is a cis, white man helping plan the launch of the LGBTQ+ museum, sitting with him at the table making decisions are a diverse range of folks, including multiple trans and nonbinary characters, two of which are played by trans icon Ts Madison and nonbinary star Miss Lawrence. When real people are saying that the queer community should drop its "weird" and "annoying" members, Bros says that we're all a family.
It's not the Stonewall Riot, but it's better than queer people on Twitter trying to gatekeep who can be a lesbian or what kinds of gay people deserve to have their stories told.
An even more important message in the movie comes when Bobby meets Aaron's family, including his second-grade teacher mother. Bobby asks Aaron's mom if she teaches any gay history, to which she replies, "they're a little young for that." Across the country, schools and communities are banning books that talk about gay people, they're calling drag queens and trans women "groomers" and "pedophiles," they're trying to make it so that gay teachers can't talk about being gay in school. And Bros punches back. Once again, Bobby goes into one of his monologues, talking about how his life changed when he was taken to see a gay Broadway play as a child. Gay history and gay culture are children's history and culture, Bobby argues, and they deserve to know about it.
Eichner is making the same argument with Bros. Gay people deserve our stories too, and we deserve movies that celebrate us and that are love letters to us.
Bros is a great movie, and it's a shame more people aren't going to go see it. Hopefully, it will get the audience it so richly deserves when it hits streaming. It's also currently in theaters, so go catch it now, before everyone else catches up to it.
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