Less than a month after its release and subsequent box office bomb, “Bros” is now available to stream on Peacock. Despite “Bros” receiving critical acclaim, the film had a disappointing box office run, making only $4.8 million, or about half of the projected $8 to $10 million, against a budget of $22 million. This resulted in a controversial tweet from creator and star Billy Eichner that blamed the film’s lackluster performance on “straight people.”
From the quick-witted angry comedian, Eichner, who is best known for “Billy on the Street” (2011), and filmmakers Nicholas Stoller and Judd Apatow, “Bros” is a rom-com about two men who fall in love. And not to be dramatic, but “Bros” is literally the best gay film I’ve ever seen.
Eichner plays Bobby Lieber, a successful podcaster and chairman of a committee that is overseeing the creation of the first LGBTQ+ history museum. Bobby takes on the same charms as Eichner: He’s intense and cynical yet crass and self-deprecating. He’s a 40-year-old gay man who has never been in a serious relationship until he meets Aaron, played by Luke Macfarlane.
“Bros” is an easy watch with some familiar story beats. The jokes are hilarious in both its writing and delivery, with standout performances from Bowen Yang and Jim Rash. The comedy is smart, largely critiquing gay culture without mocking it, and pokes fun at infighting among the LGBTQ+ community, impossible beauty standards and the promiscuity of gay men.
As a gay man who has spent most of his pubescent years secretly binging the LGBTQ+ catalogue on my family’s Netflix account, I am both glad and upset that “Bros” has moved to streaming. While it is disappointing that the film didn’t perform well, considering how revolutionary its theatrical release was, “Bros” will now be accessible to people who may have had second thoughts about seeing a gay movie in theaters. However, this could be a cautionary tale that prevents Hollywood from investing in future gay cinema.
Unlike most gay films that involve teenagers discovering their sexualities or battling homophobia, “Bros” is a breath of fresh air that tells a relatable story with flawed characters that you can’t help but root for. A lot of what makes “Bros” so charming is in the parallels that it draws between the plot and real life. Though the museum serves as a nice backdrop for the film, it points towards a larger message of gay liberation while also nodding at the historical nature of Eichner’s film as the first big studio gay rom-com with an all LGBTQ+ principal cast.
While not everyone is a successful gay New Yorker in their forties, there’s something painfully relatable about the two leads. Bobby’s pessimism stems from his fear of rejection. He’s afraid to be loved by Aaron, because he doesn’t think he’s attractive enough. Meanwhile, Aaron is afraid that he’s too boring to fit into Bobby’s life.
“Bros” is at its best when it focuses on the distinct struggles of a gay romance. Emotionally unavailable men are prevalent in the gay community and the movie explores why these characters reject the possibility of love. The introspection into the trauma they carry from their youth, and how they later deal with that trauma, was raw and fascinating.
The film also explores an experience that many older gay men have: struggling to reconcile with a society that accepts them today but ostracized them less than two decades ago. Bobby and Aaron are a microcosm of a generation of gay men who lacked queer role models and were surrounded by rampant homophobia, only to enter adulthood with a sudden acceptance of homosexuality. Seeing how these characters come together, break down their walls and allow themselves to be loved is a beautiful and intimate study on queer characters who rarely grace our screens.
At its core, “Bros” is a hilarious movie that packs a lot more heart than expected. When the movie is funny, it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious, and when it’s sweet, it’s tear-jerking. There’s something very emotional about seeing a relatable representation of gay men, and “Bros” makes me optimistic for the future of gay cinema, especially as it stands to impact many more queer adolescents by widening its audience and accessibility.