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#TIFF22 Review: Bros (Special Presentations)

September 17, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8th to 18th.

Starring, co-written and executive produced by Billy Eichner, Bros is the first big romantic comedy from a major studio to focus on a gay couple, starring a cast of queer actors, and you know what? This is the R-rated gay rom-com we deserve; it’s raunchy and laugh out loud funny, yes, but also very sweet and perceptive about gay relationships and LGBTQ+ history. In short, it’s fantastic.

Eichner stars in the film as Bobby Lieber, an openly gay New Yorker who hosts a podcast called The 11th Brick at Stonewall (because we all know that it was a trans woman of colour who threw the first brick, so a gay white cis male probably threw the eleventh). Bobby is very opinionated and has a passion for queer history, which he is channeling into his work on New York City’s first LGBTQ+ history museum. He’s on a board that is made up of a colourful cast of characters spanning the broad spectrum of queer identities, leading to several amusing scenes where they are all jostling to be heard and struggle to agree on what figures should be included.

Bobby has closed himself off to the prospect of any sort of commitment or relationship, beyond the occasional no strings attached Grindr hookup. But this all changes when he meets Aaron Shepard (Luke MacFarlane) at a club. Aaron is an estate attorney who hangs out at the gym and is more into hockey and country music, putting him somewhat at odds with modern gay culture. He also has a strict no serious dating rule and is more into casual hookups, leading to a mix of emotions when him and Bobby actually start to enjoy spending more and more time together.

Directed and co-written by Nicholas Stoller, whose Forgetting Sarah Marshall was also a benchmark for the genre, the Judd Apatow-produced Bros follows the classic romantic comedy formula, and reminds us just how satisfying it can be when done right. The result is one of the best and most entertaining rom-coms in recent memory. While it’s easy to imagine the film having pretty broad appeal, it also feels refreshingly made with gay audiences in mind, as Eichner probes the minutiae of gay culture in ways that are both very funny and well-observed.

A major theme of the film is about challenging the catchphrase “love is love,” with Eichner’s Bobby seeing it as a slogan that was made up to appeal to the straights. He’s always quick to point out that homosexual relationships between two men are inherently different from heterosexual ones, with his point being that it’s okay to acknowledge that. Eichner’s script also touches on how the various groups that make up the LGBTQ+ community often struggle to get along, offering some biting critiques of how modern identity politics is designed to pit the different letters against each other.

Eichner’s acting and writing are equally strong, as he explores Bobby’s inherent insecurities around both his body image and not being a stereotypically masculine man. We get a lot of clever and witty dialogue, as well as a very heartfelt monologue that he delivers partway through. There’s even an original song co-written and performed by Eichner (fittingly, “Love is Not Love”) that finds the perfect balance between being funny and bittersweet, and deserves an Oscar nomination.

MacFarlane also delivers a hugely appealing performance as love interest Aaron, who is struggling with his own identity as a gay man who doesn’t necessarily fit the stereotype of one. It’s a testament to the strength of the lead characters and the writing that we become completely invested in their relationship by the end, and genuinely root for them during the rousing finale. I loved it.

Public Screenings:

Friday, September 9th – 9:45 PM at VISA Screening Room at the Princess of Wales

Saturday, September 10th – 12:30 PM at Roy Thomson Hall

Saturday, September 17th – 1:00 PM at Scotiabank 1

Saturday, September 17th – 9:30 PM at VISA Screening Room at the Princess of Wales

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