Released: 27th October
Seen: 15th November
In 1894 there was a film released that is known as “The Dickson Experimental Sound Film”, the first film produced for the Kinetoscope which was one of the progenitors of the modern-day projector. This film would be very culturally significant as it is the first known sound film to exist and while the technology wasn’t perfect it was an important step in developing the ability to combine sound with image… that film featured a man with a violin playing a tune from the opera Les Cloches de Corneville and two other men dancing together to it. As far as we know, this is the earliest gay imagery captured on film and it lasts for about 17 seconds.
Since then we’ve made leaps and bounds in terms of progress, gay stories are getting told more often in media and there are more roles for gay actors – and now, thanks to Bros, we finally have a gay romantic comedy that was written by and stars predominantly LGBTQ people that was released by a major studio… a thing that it’s apparently taken until 2022 for us to get around to doing, so that’s fun.
Bros tells the story of Bobby Lieber (Billy Eichner), a podcaster and museum curator who is just trying to live his life in New York. As a gay man, this includes the usual things, going to clubs, hitting up men on Grindr and trying desperately to avoid a life of heteronormativity all between trying to prepare for the opening of the National LGBTQ+ History Museum in Manhattan. His life seems to be going well enough when he runs into Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane), a guy who can be described as insanely hot but also a little boring.
At first, Bobby and Aaron don’t have much in common, what with Bobby being a snarky gay guy who works in the arts while Aaron is more likely to be found at a gym than a Broadway show, but as is standard in the Rom-com genre (albeit done here with a serious gay twist) the two slowly start to realise that they actually work pretty well together, which might mean they go from just being friends who occasionally hook up to something more.
As far as rom-coms go, Bros is genuinely charming and hilarious. Taking the classic tropes of the rom-com genre and injecting queer culture into them is a simple but effective choice because, as the film will repeatedly state, queer relationships are inherently different to straight ones. There’s a different way of meeting up, a different language, different expectations for relationships and exploring that honestly leads to some very funny and relatable situations. It allows the film to play with a very standard rom-com plot without it being too obvious and giving the film its own unique sensibility that allows it to stand out.
The comedy in Bros is a mixture of portraying the unique elements of queer relationships in a slightly heightened light and some generally well-written comedic barbs that play with elements of queer history or queer culture and most of it lands wonderfully. Throw in a few cameos by modern queer allies making fun of themselves (Debra Messing notably getting the lion’s share of the ally role) and you end up with a film that’s consistently somewhere between amusing and hilarious, a better hit-rate for comedy than one would expect. It’s also never the safe jokes, it’s inclusive as hell but not afraid to make actually edgy jokes (almost like it’s actually possible to do both at the same time if you actually try, go figure).
What holds Bros together is that the two leads genuinely work well as a couple, Billy and Luke have pretty incredible chemistry that makes every scene with them enjoyable, from the great banter between them to the charming romantic scenes that always get right to the edge of saccharine without ever falling over that edge, they manage to bring out the best in each other to create a great set of main characters for us to follow that we end up rooting for… even if there are times when they can get just a little bit preachy, for lack of a better term.
As was mentioned earlier, Bros holds the distinction of being the first gay romcom featuring gay actors that was made by a studio. This is an important milestone, and Bros knows it. It knows it’s important and uses a decent chunk of its time to say important things, provide snapshots of gay history or call out real-world issues. This is all well and good, it’s important for art to comment on politics because all art is political but Bros does it in a way that can only be described as ‘smarmy’, it knows how important it is and will state that importance right at the beginning of the film. Now, obviously, it is possible to get past this when it pops up but it does leave a bit of a sour taste at times.
It also doesn’t help the film that it’s a little all over the place, changing tones and ideas on a whim and dropping plot points like nothing else. For example, the film’s opening act has some cute stylistic ideas, like Bobby having a podcast and people lip-syncing his words as he talks or some fun cutaway gags… these ideas never turn up after the opening scene, indeed the podcast is never mentioned after the opening scene. Aaron has a big reveal that he wants to be a chocolatier… and then he just kind of does it all off-screen where it has no impact despite being a pretty major moment. This happens quite a lot, moments that should have an impact on the plot just kind of get ignored because Bros is trying so hard to be commercially acceptable that it gets lost in itself.
Fortunately, some of these moments where the film goes off on a bit of a tangent can allow some of the supporting cast to shine, and god damn does this film have a fantastic supporting cast. Most of the people on screen represent some element of the LGBTQIA+ community and even though it’s uneven, every one of them gets a chance to shine. Amazing talents like Guy Barnum, Dot-Marie Jones, Miss Lawrence and the ultimate scene stealer TS Madison (seriously, someone give that woman her own film right now) really get their moments to show off and hopefully, it will get them noticed to appear in more films because everyone in this film deserves the chance.
Bros might be a messy bitch at times, but it’s the kind of messy bitch that you want to hang out with and enjoy. It’s catty, funny, a little stuck up and knows that it’s pretty damn great but it also has a pretty damn big heart and can cheer you up pretty easily. Would it be lovely if the script was a little tighter? Sure, we all want a nice tight script to bury ourselves in sometimes but what’s here is still pretty damn amazing and a lot of fun. If nothing else, hopefully this film will manage to get a lot of talented people the chance to appear in more mainstream work. Hopefully soon we will have so much queer film that it no longer needs to matter when someone does something first!
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