HE is down with Nicholas Stoller, Billy Eichner and Judd Apatow‘s Bros, which I saw Thursday evening. I admired the witty writing, the expert acting, the character-building and professional construction, and it also touched me in a somewhat old-fashioned way. It struck me as generally gutsy and first-rate schmaltz, and at times more than that.
Is it like a typical Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks romcom from the ’90s? Yeah, but a good one! And with boners and beards!
I felt a genuine kinship and a comfort level with the characters and even, to a significant extent, with the sexuality.
The alone-ness, defensiveness and brusque “I don’t trust you” personality of Eichner’s “Bobby Lieber”, an openly gay museum curator and musician, are very clearly and movingly conveyed, and I really liked Luke MacFarlane‘s “Aaron”, a muscular wills attorney and fledgling chocolatier whom Bobby falls for early on, only to stumble through the usual commitment-or-not issues.
I got as much of a relaxed upfront gay feeling from this as I did from Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name, which is much tamer and less sexually provocative than Bros.
Coming from a straight guy like myself, this kind of approval means something. Or it might mean something, I should say. I caught a 5pm showing of Bros with a friend in Westport, and we were the only ones in the house.
I don’t know what Apatow’s writing input was, but aside from the pointed, confessional, signature-level writing from Eichner, whose story this primarily is, I could feel the Apatow-ness all the way through. It had a King of Staten Island-like feeling of assurance and carefully measured control…a professional sense of timing and pacing and all-around wholeness that I bought into. (Eichner and Stoller are credited as cowriters.)
Speaking of my straightness, Bros struck me (and I know what this is going to sound like) as a little too pronounced in terms of the gay consciousness factor. Just a wee little bit.
Did everything in this movie have to be about sexuality and sexual identity and frank, take-it-or leave-it, this-is-what-gay-life-is-like revelation? How many lines in this film dealt with the occasional banality or neutrality of things? How many lines in this didn’t address or comment upon gay behaviors or culture or history? Damn few. As Sigmund Freud might have said, occasionally a gay man will enter a tobacco shop for a couple of good cigars, and he’ll just say “gimme a couple of good cigars” without mentioning or alluding to his orientation.
Bros has been described as a somewhat predictable, straight-laced gay romcom, but there’s nothing restrained about the sexual scenes, which at times almost reminded me of Frank Ripploh‘s Taxi Zum Klo. Forgive me but I somehow don’t recall a scene in Sleepless in Seattle in which Meg Ryan talked to a girlfriend about peeing on Tom Hanks, or told Hanks during a vulnerable moment that she wants him to fuck her, or that the last time his big fat banana slid into her she went “oh wow.”
There are two great scenes (okay, one and a half) with Debra Messing. The Abraham Lincoln-was-gay thing is simultaneously acknowledged as bullshit but also pushed a little too far. But Amy Schumer’s Eleanor Roosevelt and Kenan Thompson‘s James Baldwin are just right. Ditto Bowen Yang, Kristin Chenoweth, Harvey Fierstein, a Ben Stiller cameo, etc.
Forgive me but there’s so much in our daily lives that falls under the headings of “banal” or “middle class whatevs”, and this movie just won’t ease up with the avoidance of that banality and the persistence of the gay experience and corresponding sensibilities.
There’s a dinner scene with Aaron’s parents that drives this aspect home. Along with Aaron, I was silently begging Bobby to ease up and tone it down. In this scene Bobby voices his support for educating second-graders about gay views and lifestyles. I don’t care what this sounds like coming from me, but kids 10-and-under should be left the fuck alone. That part REALLY didn’t work for me.
But otherwise Bros is refreshingly smart and engaging and well-structured, and I really liked the romcom squareness of it all. I can’t think of a kicker line so this’ll have to do.