Hollywood finally realises love is love with this gay rom-com

Rated MA, 115 minutes

How far we’ve come. By “we” I don’t necessarily mean all of us, but I do mean writer-director Nicholas Stoller (Bad Neighbours), a veteran of the bromance era in Hollywood comedy, when the working assumption was that nothing is funnier than straight dudes acting a little bit gay.

Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane in Bros – simply a romantic comedy in which two gay men fall in love.Credit:Universal

Stoller’s new film Bros, produced by his frequent collaborator, Judd Apatow, is a different story. This isn’t a bromance in the usual sense, nor is it focused on characters struggling with their sexuality or with declaring it to the world.

It’s simply a romantic comedy in which two gay men fall in love – and while Stoller himself identifies as heterosexual, almost the entire cast is reportedly somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum, including the star, Billy Eichner, who collaborated with Stoller on the script.

Eichner plays the fortyish Bobby Lieber, who hosts a successful podcast dedicated to LGBTQ issues, and also sits on the board of an envisaged museum of queer history. Both these occupations allow him to sound off on issues dear to his heart, not that he needs an invitation: being gay might be central to his identity, but equally he’s an archetypal movie New Yorker, proudly neurotic, cynical, and unable to keep his mouth shut.

Naturally, Bobby has sworn off love, opting for a “romantic single life” patched together from close platonic friendships and anonymous Grindr hook-ups. Things change when he meets Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) a laid-back lawyer who’s a long way from being the dumb hunk people take him for – but who proves to have some issues of his own.

In what sense Bros qualifies as the first of its kind is open to question, but certainly there haven’t been a lot of movies like this backed by a major Hollywood studio (Universal, in this case).

There’s a lot riding on the success of such a venture, as the filmmakers are well aware: Eichner as Bobby doesn’t quite break the fourth wall, but he does spend a lot of time effectively thinking out loud about what a gay romantic comedy should look like.

It makes for a somewhat overloaded movie, sometimes very funny, sometimes with a sense of items being ticked off an agenda, sometimes emotionally a bit routine.

The biggest problem is that Macfarlane doesn’t have enough to do: positioning Eichner as the new Billy Crystal isn’t an unreasonable idea, but When Harry Met Sally wouldn’t be so fondly remembered if it were The Billy Crystal Show rather than giving Meg Ryan the most memorable comic scene.

All up, though, this is a major leap forward from the old brand of comedy aimed at stirring up uneasy feelings about gayness in the straight public. I’ll say it again: how far we’ve come.

Bros opens in cinemas on October 27.

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