When Judd Apatow produces a big mainstream romantic comedy, you often know that you’re in for a treat. The same goes for the movies he helms, but when he godfathers a flick, there’s a true sense that the talent he tapped has a story they want to tell. With Bros, it’s Billy Eichner, who gets to not just co-write the film, but star in it too. Funny and raunchy, there’s also a tender heart beating at the center of this project, which really does shine through. Playing as one of the bigger crowd pleasers here at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was an absolute laugh riot.
Bros is as funny as any rom-com this year, but it’s also a cut above due to its cultural specificity. I’m a heterosexual male, but I was invested every step of the way in this relationship. We’ve hopefully come a long way from a time when a film like this would have been relegated to the art houses. This is a big, mainstream, studio comedy, and it deserves to be treated as such. Luckily, Apatow, Universal, and company seem to know they have a hit on their hands.
Bobby Leiber (Eichner) doesn’t go in for the whole love thing. A successful podcaster, he even resents how gay men are all portrayed as nice. He’s often angry, and proud of it. The hookup culture doesn’t seem ideal for him, but Bobby still subjects himself to various flings and would-be flings. He claims to be happy, but it’s hard to believe him. Then, while out at a dance club one night with his friend Henry (Guy Branum), Bobby sees someone who might make him question everything.
As soon as Bobby lays eyes on Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), something is different. Aaron is a hunk, supposedly boring, and seems to avoid commitment even more than he does. They flirt, but Bobby can’t get a read on Aaron, at least until the latter begins pursuing him a bit. Eventually, they’re hooking up and spending time together. Could this be the sort of relationship they’ve both long avoided but could possibly need?
Billy Eichner is clearly playing an exaggerated version of himself, but it’s a lovable version, even when he makes it difficult. Eichner leans into his character’s flaws, finding the humor, but also the truth of it all. Luke Macfarlane is tremendously charismatic, showing why one might fall in love with the guy. Eichner and Macfarlane also have top notch chemistry with each other, which doesn’t hurt one bit. Supporting players include the aforementioned Guy Branum, as well as Amanda Bearse, Guillermo Diaz, TS Madison, Debra Messing, Jim Rash, Bowen Yang, and more.
Co-writer/director Nicholas Stoller (having written the script with Eichner) knows how to make an Apatow rom-com, and he once again pulls it off with Bros. Running under two hours, the pacing is never an issue, and the jokes almost exclusively land. Eichner and Stoller are also successful in the more serious moments, as issues are brought up that we rarely hear or see depicted on film. There’s a sense that everyone involved is turning the genre on its ear a bit, while also just making a great rom-com.
Bros is a blast. TIFF has a rom-com winner on their hands, that’s for sure. Especially if you love Judd Apatow produced comedies, this should be very much up your alley. There was fun to be had here in Toronto at the festival, and there will be fun once it opens in theaters in a few weeks. Watch out for this to be a sleeper comedy smash!