This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment editor Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
(If you are, in fact, a straight, you may not understand that this greeting is a reference to a genius comedy bit by Meg Stalter, referred to as the “Hi gay!” video.)
(Meg Stalter is a bisexual actress and comedian, whose short videos featuring her delivering monologues as often-delusional characters routinely went viral, and who currently co-stars on HBO Max’s Hacks alongside Jean Smart.)
(Jean Smart is a veteran actress, whose breakout role was on the beloved sitcom Designing Woman and, as is the case with cherished character actresses who have had long careers, is a venerated LGBTQ icon.)
As you can see, it can be quite laborious to explain references from within a certain subset of the LGBTQ community to an uninitiated (heterosexual) audience. That’s why what Billy Eichner and director Nick Stoller accomplishes with Bros borders on miraculous.
Bros, which hits theaters next week, is the first romantic comedy about a same-sex couple to be released theatrically by a major studio. Yes, it’s 2022, and, while it may seem like there’s been so much progress in terms of LGBTQ inclusivity in movies—Love, Simon and Fire Island, for example—this is historic.
More than that, it’s terrifying. What if the people don’t go see it? Hollywood is fickle and finicky. The industry will take a risk if it thinks the audience is there, but if it’s not, then it’s possible Hollywood will never take a chance on a similar project again. So, friends: Go see Bros.
If Bros’ wide release is, in fact, an experiment, there are things going in its favor: It’s really freaking funny. It is crude and raunchy. It is sexy. It jokes about life as a gay male over the age of 30—over the age of 40, even!—in New York City in a way that feels authentic, as if it was actually written by a gay man for other gay men, someone who didn’t care if straight people necessarily “got it.” The way that Bros references the gay community, while also being self-aware about mocking the community is, well, just so very gay. It was a pleasure to see!
Of course, the people behind Bros do very much care if straight people “get it.” Eichner’s character, Bobby, is a podcaster and gay historian. He is preoccupied with what it means to be a gay person at this moment in time, along with the question of what we do or don’t owe to past generations. He gets a job as the director of the first-ever LGBT History Museum, which brings these conversations to the forefront.
Bobby also delivers a handful of passionate, poignant monologues about ideas like identity, self-loathing, flamboyance, shame, promiscuity, and the pressure to look a certain way. These are cathartic and illuminating; Bros manages to educate a straight audience without centering the entire film around whether straight people will understand it.
The film is also a romantic comedy in the traditional sense, and it hews close to the genre formula that we all love so much.
Bobby and Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) are both set in their ways as non-relationship people. When they meet, Bobby assumes that he and the hunky lawyer have nothing in common. But they are, in ways they never expected, drawn to each other. This leads them to figure out what that means in terms of who they thought they were and how they think about love and commitment.
That’s a pretty traditional set-up. But the way the film follows through on this premise also just feels so… gay.
Take the film’s monumental approach to sex and hook-up culture, for example: I am a chaste angel who obviously has never been on a hook-up app or attempted to take a nude photo—heavens no—but from what I hear, the awkward, clinical way that Bobby’s Grindr encounter is portrayed rings true. The same can be said about the four-way sex scene between Bobby, Aaron, and the couple that Aaron introduces in the film thusly: “I’m supposed to fuck him and his husband later.” I’d venture this is the first time a line like that has been said in a studio romantic comedy.
Bros reveals some of the inherent queerness of the rom-com too. It turns out that the classic rom-com thing of someone thinking they’re not good enough to be loved by someone else also happens to a be a very gay thing. Like any movie featuring believable gay characters requires, there is a lot of complaining about this and other points in Bros. (Can relate!) “You’re like a grown-up gay boy scout, and I’m like whatever happens to Evan Hansen,” Bobby tells Aaron. Then there’s his generational angst, too. “It’s not fair!” he bemoans about Gen Z. “We had AIDS, and they had Glee.”
Bros has a keen eye toward how ridiculous some of this behavior can be—or at least how it seems to an outside culture. (Hell, even within our own.) “Gay guys are so stupid,” Bobby says at one point, as I—one such stupid gay guy—clapped from my seat. Speak on it. The exhausting nature of progressive demands for wokeness is also given a good-natured ribbing, like with references to a Hallmark holiday film about queer, polyamorous lovers called Christmas With Either, and a crack about how a gay couple expecting their first child at the same time they entered into a throuple would have a “gender-reveal orgy.”
There have been—and still are—so many demands and expectations for the kind of movie Bros should be and needed to be. Every element of the story will be scrutinized and alternately celebrated or criticized because of the specific gay experience that is being spotlighted. Who feels seen or represented by it, and who feels excluded? Given the inevitability of that, it’s remarkable that Bros is this good and feels this authentic.
It helps that Eichner and Stoller cast all the main characters, even the straight ones, with openly LGBTQ actors. That’s a really powerful thing to do when given a platform like a high-profile comedy.
There’s a scene near the end of the film where Bobby looks out into the crowd at the museum and sees a sea of LGBTQ-identifying people from all walks of life, all dancing together. I was genuinely moved by what I realized I’d been missing from the movie screen for most of my adult life: not just gay love, but gay happiness.