Now that the Hallmark Channel has extended its holiday offerings to include gay relationships, it’s not a real stretch for Billy Eichner to attempt something on the big screen.
While it dabbles in situations most rom-coms don’t, “Bros” is fairly tame and winds up much like something Meg Ryan did a couple of decades ago.
Eichner plays a podcaster and the head of an LGBTQ-themed museum who figures love has passed him by. He knows others buy into the messaging that comes from the Hallheart Channel (a slight dig at Hallmark), but he has been battered by so much homophobia he doubts there’s a place for him in an ever-changing sexual world.
When he meets someone at a party, there’s a twinge of something, but – ever the guardian of his heart – Eichner’s Bobby Leiber resists the urge to act on it. The hunky Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) may be a lawyer but he can’t be as smart or as quick as Bobby, right?
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Soon, both learn it’s not good to stereotype. They fall into a relationship and reveal how insecurities play out in the gay world. While Eichner (who co-wrote the screenplay with director Nicholas Stoller) isn’t afraid to enlighten (or shock), he sticks to the playbook and shows how difficult it is to admit he has committed to someone.
The razor-sharp lines (which are more understandable than the ones in “Fire Island”) help explain what has kept someone like Bobby from falling in love. Admiration, it seems, is better than commitment: “Confidence is just a choice you make."
Eichner and Macfarlane go through plenty of phases in their relationship and worry what family members might say when they’re together for the holidays.
Macfarlane offers up the same vibe he has given leading man roles in real Hallmark movies but Eichner shows a softer side that helps him play well with others. In “Billy on the Street,” he’s too manic to embrace. Here, he’s that gay sidekick who realizes he doesn’t have to deliver a well-timed line; he can enjoy a full conversation.
Plenty of cameos (Bowen Yang is particularly good as a millionaire who’s approached about funding the museum) keep this moving as quickly as everything else Eichner does. When he leans into his version of a Garth Brooks song, “Bros” finds a different light and becomes the film it wants to be.
It’s not scandalous – or particularly adult – but it does show people are more insecure than we ever thought. Slowed to a crawl, Eichner proves he can be a very good actor. Sometimes, revelations just take time.