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Billy on the Street / Billy in the Sheets
We recently came home from a wedding to find our house infested with flies. Great, I thought as I headed to the hardware store to buy fly tape, we’re going to miss the movie. What a buzzkill. A few days before, I’d learned about a free early screening of Bros at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Not only that, there’d also be an introduction by its two leading men: Billy Eichner and Luke Macfarlane. A gay blockbuster movie with a gay cast with a gay audience in the gay theater in the gay neighborhood down the road from my house? How could we not go to this?!
“I think you might be getting your hopes up a bit,” my boyfriend Will cautioned as I asked him if he’d be ok pausing the cleaning up of dead flies so we could go get a place in line.
He was right of course to call me out, I did have my hopes up, but the truth was I’d been secretly eager to see this movie ever since the trailer dropped in May. Did I dare hope someone in 2022 had made a smart, funny and sexy non-reboot romcom that I could get into?
In Bros, we meet Bobby (Billy Eichner) and Aaron (Luke Macfarlane). Bobby (a clearly not-that-fictional version of Billy Eichner) is a witty, successful (don’t forget cynical) 40-something gay man in NYC. He’s a history book author, a podcaster and now he’s taken on the uphill battle of opening up an LGBTQ history museum. They still haven’t decided what to put in the final wing. Successful by many counts, Bobby is fiercely proud of his independence and self-worth. He doesn’t do relationships, and prefers the no strings attached world of Grindr hookups even if the hookups aren’t exactly romantic..(no spoilers). One night, at the launch of a new app to help gay men find other gay men to talk about their favorite actresses, Bobby makes eyes at Aaron. Aaron is hot. Really hot. Picture that Abercrombie and Fitch adonis from the early 00s that made you confused for a moment about your sexuality. Yeah, that hot. Trust me. Wait why are you even still reading this, go find some stills of Luke Macfarlane already. (Editor’s Note: I added one as the header for a preview.)
Finished fawning over Luke Macfarlane? Ok cool.
The rest of the movie follows the relationship that strikes up between this unlikely couple as they gradually begin to circle one another; with varying degrees of interest, intensity and insecurity from each man as they learn to let down their guard, challenge their preconceptions and embrace mutual vulnerability, authenticity and respect.
The thing with Bros is, it’s got the dualism of being a dumb formulaic romcom, while still having been thoughtfully crafted to embrace and represent a group of people that have celebrated romcoms but have never seen one depicting their own personal story. It has a gay excellence vibe to it, wherein hetero culture is given next to zero screen time to assert any possible pretense of dominance. This powerful revisionism reminds me in a way of the Afrofuturism that we celebrate Black Panther for; reinforcing and reminding a community that it is and has always been powerful and excellent.
Bros is unevenly paced and the plot in the first act runs at about the same speed Billy runs around NYC in Billy on the Street before eventually mellowing out with an arguably predictable ending where all strings are perhaps a little too conveniently tied up. These cons are far outweighed by the pros: there are outstanding zingers, hilarious cameos, beautifully convincing love scenes, and moving monologues about resentfully developing self-worth and self-belief when it looks like no one is going to give it to you otherwise.
The movie gives love, space and time to establishing believable characters belonging to other parts of the LGBTQ community, but I think it’s the comfortable white cisgender gay man (like me) that ultimately has the most meaning to take away from this movie. I think that’s okay. I (like most) appreciate feeling seen, and this movie made me realise I hadn’t been as seen as I thought I had.
I left the theatre feeling really good about who I am, and for that I’m thankful.
Written by Billy Eichner and Nicholas Stoller; Directed by Nicholas Stoller
Stray Thoughts from the Editor
OK, so September in SF is closing out with a film that’s not set in SF, but it had to be done given its strong spiritual connection to SF. It premiered at the Castro theater and our wonderful guest author was there!
I specifically want to call out something Oli wrote that I found very moving;
[there are] moving monologues about resentfully developing self-worth and self-belief when it looks like no one is going to give it to you otherwise.
It’s specific to the gay experience and simultaneously relevant to the human experience. Movies are at their best when they illuminate are shared humanity despite our differences, and reading Oli’s review took me from “interested to see the movie eventually” to “buying a ticket as soon as it comes out.”
Speaking of which: Bros is out in theaters today! Here’s a handy link for you to find a theater near you!
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