The romantic comedy is, simply put, one of the most comforting film genres. If you ever need to cry or laugh or just switch off, they are there for you; we all have our go-to selection for that rainy day. Over the last decade as cinema has changed both due to COVID-19 and the rise of streaming, romantic comedies have been adapting, no longer are they box office darlings and instead becoming streaming gold. This year's major rom-coms all had streaming backing: 'Cha Cha Real Smooth' went to Apple TV+, 'Crush' to Disney+/Hulu, same with 'Fire Island', and while 'Marry Me' was theatrical only in most countries was streaming the same day on Peacock in the United States. Thus far, only two big studio rom-coms have remained theatrically exclusive - 'Ticket to Paradise' and 'Bros'.
'Bros' follows Bobby Lieber (Billy Eichner, 2019's 'The Lion King', TV's 'Parks and Recreation'), a gay man in his 40s who has been hopelessly single his whole life. While not looking for love, he meets Aaron (Luke Macfarlane, 'Single All the Way', TV's 'Brothers & Sisters') at a bar and instantly feels a spark, but Aaron is a "bro-y" gay and the two take time to warm up to each other. This causes Bobby a lot of stress and the uncertainty as the relationship beings to affect his work as a curator for the upcoming National LGBTQ+ History & Culture Museum. This museum is being worked on with fellow queer curators Wanda (Miss Lawrence, 'The United States vs. Billie Holiday'), Angela (TS Madison, 'Zola'), Cherry (Dot-Marie Jones, TV's 'Glee'), Robert (Jim Rash, TV's 'Community') and Tamara (Eve Lindley, 'After Yang').
'Bros' is everything you want from a successful romantic comedy - big laughs and an even bigger heart. It's all you could ask for from a quintessential rom-com. It tugs at your heartstrings, makes you laugh, makes you cry, and then goes right around again. In Eichner's first leading and writing role, he excels and has all the leading man potential. The supporting cast is also fantastic, but it's Eichner's film through and through. The only thing that tops him are some of the scene-stealing cameos, with one in particular taking the cake!
The film is being hailed as landmark as it's not only the first queer rom-com released by a major studio but also to have an openly LGBTQIA+ principal cast. This, of course, has been both praised by and also despised by typical homophobic groups, the latter even review-bombing the film prior to its release. While expected with any LGBTQIA+ media, it's still disheartening to see something representing the queer community being hated simply for existing, but something I found far more interesting is the mild backlash it's received from within the queer community. On his press tour, Eichner received some heat for his comments regarding the landmark nature, with audiences sighting that, yes, its exciting that this is the first LGBTQIA+ rom-com from a major studio but at the end of the day it's still a film with two white men in the lead, with many pointing to 'Fire Island' as a much diverse queer film that come out earlier this year. Which is an extremely valid conversation to have, but we can't have one piece of media represent all fascists of the queer community - that's simply impossible. Right now across all media and groups, representation is front and centre but we can't rely on one film to represent every part of these groups and should instead be asking for more stories to show depict everyone. 'Bros' is still a big gay celebration, but we still have years to go before we receive adequate representation in mainstream media, and I hope the film's critical success shows that people need these kinds of movies and want to see more.
We still have years to go before we receive adequate representation in mainstream media, and I hope the film's critical success shows that people need these kinds of movies and want to see more.
'Bros' is still a huge step forward for not just the genre but major releases in general, with almost an entirely queer principal cast, though it would have been nice to see that extend to the director's chair. Nick Stoller is entirely capable and does a fine job here, but representation continues behind the camera as well.
The box office disappointment can't just be chopped up homophobia, but the genre the film lies in. The last romantic comedy to turn a decent profit would be 2019's 'Last Christmas', and before that it was the historic run from 'Crazy Rich Asians'. The genre isn't a money maker any more. 'Fire Island' was just another example that steaming is the way to go with this the rom-com as it had a very successful run back in June, and while opening theatrically here in Australia, the queer Christmas film 'Happiest Season' proved to be successful when added to streaming in the United States. Post-pandemic audiences are just conditioned to watching this genre from their couch and not the big screen any longer.
In 2018 we had 'Love, Simon', the first gay teen film released by a major studio. In the years since, a lot of media targeted at teens has become more and more inclusive. There is an interesting relationship I have noticed with LGBTQIA+ people in the five years since that film came out where young audiences don’t care for it as much because they have other gay teen content they find relatable available to them, while it's the older queer people who the film resonates more strongly with. 'Bros' takes things to the next level - it wants to be this huge leap forward but its serves more as the jumping-off point; it's the start of major studio queer films, but is not the defining one.
The film isn't a re-writing of the genre - and that's why it's so enjoyable. It indulges in all those things we love about rom-coms, adds the gay coating, and is a joy to watch.
'Bros' is the big screen rom-com return we have been longing for. You'll leave grinning ear to ear and with a sore jaw from the non-stop laughs. 2022 being the first time a major studio has released a gay rom-com is far too long - so please make sure we don't have wait a millennium for the next one. Run out and see this on big screen because we're queer and here!