Bros: energy, emotion and smarts abound in this joyous mainstreaming of queer desire

Though it could’ve done with more of the gleeful absurdity that may be its freshest quality, Billy Eichner’s groundbreaking LGBTQ+ comedy has a bold energy that compensates for its moments of clunkiness and overreach.

Bros (2022)

As the first wide release by an American studio with an LGBTQ+ principal cast and an unapologetically queer sensibility, Bros is burdened with a weight that most romantic comedies are not required to carry. Serving here as star, co-writer and executive producer, Billy Eichner is so aware of his film’s significance that he’s built it into the fabric of the movie. It’s certainly evident in his character Bobby’s propensity for speeches about the historical erasure of same-sex lives and loves, and in Bobby’s drive to give them the space they deserve.

Bobby is equally vocal about his feelings concerning the mainstreaming of queer desire and the resulting glut of cultural representations that apply a heteronormative template to the different experiences of lovers located elsewhere on the spectrum of gender identity and sexual orientation. Surely, as Bobby demands, we all deserve better than the cheesy Hallmark holiday movies satirised here with commercials for fictional offerings like Christmas with Either (for bisexual viewers) and A Holly, Poly Christmas (for the polyamorous).

Of course, the casting of Hallmark-movie veteran Luke Macfarlane – who gives an impressively nuanced performance as Bobby’s love interest – is one indication that Eichner and co-writer and director Nicolas Stoller want Bros to be every bit as satisfying as the reductive fare they lampoon. Likewise, their movie’s blend of vulnerability and vulgarity situates it in the lineage of projects shepherded by producer Judd Apatow.

All this leaves Bros with a host of sometimes competing objectives. Yet the film’s abundance of energy, feeling and smarts compensates for the moments of clunkiness and overreach. Particularly welcome is the astuteness about the deeper reasons why two characters who ought to be together may prefer what Bobby calls “weird sex with strangers you don’t like” to the risks of romance and commitment. And while the lovers’ to-and-fro may feel overly protracted in the final third, Bros remains far less rambling than Apatow’s own directorial efforts, Stoller sticking with the snappier pacing that distinguished his earlier films Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and Get Him to the Greek (2010). Nevertheless, some viewers may long for more of the gleeful absurdity that may be Bros’ freshest quality. This more anarchic, less earnest sensibility reigns supreme in a hilarious segment about a cheerful fourth wheel doing his best to get in on a group-sex session and another with Saturday Night Live’s Bowen Yang as a rich philanthropist who insists that Bobby’s museum include “a haunted house of gay trauma”, complete with visitors being chased by an actor in a Ronald Reagan mask.

► Bros is in UK cinemas from tomorrow.