“Bros,” from director Nicholas Stoller (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), is funny and smart, and has a really great romance at its heart. Podcast host and museum director Bobby (lead actor and co-writer Billy Eichner) has no time for romance, and yet a chance meeting with buff and seemingly aloof lawyer Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) makes him do the thing he didn’t think he wanted: dating. Both characters come to this somewhat reluctantly, but even so, their strong attraction to each other is clear.
One of the strongest parts of ‘Bros’ is Bobby struggling with the fact that the world keeps telling him to be less himself: self: to tone down, lighten up, talk a little more about Hallmark movies and little less LGBTQ+ history. It’s in these scenes that Eichner and the screenplay shine the brightest, not only bringing out the huge unfairness of trying to make someone more “acceptable” for the comfort of others, but also nailing insecurities and Bobby’s confidence at the same time.
And so I was honestly a bit horrified that my main issue with “Bros” was that, well, it’s a bit too much.
To clarify, I don’t mean it’s “too gay”, or that it should have been toned down, etc. I’m talking specifically about the tightness of the script and the plot, and yet I’m incredibly aware that if taken as a pull-quote or soundbyte it sounds exactly like I’m one of those people who constantly complains to our main character. And he’s a person none of us should be.
One of the best things the media can do is make us think. Why do we react the way we do to the things we watch and read? Where and when do we make judgments that demonstrate our own unexamined biases? It’s one of the ways I think pop culture and other media consumption can really make us better people.
Like the realization Bobby has when he reconciles his inner anger and mistrust with the support person he wants to be, “Bros” tries to do all things at the same time, and so sometimes the pace lags or a gag is lost in a drawing-offstage. It’s a mix of satire and romantic comedy and a deeply personal character study that needed a bit of crunch to shine in its full glory.
That doesn’t mean it’s not good. He is. “Bros” is funny, moving, and fresh, and Bobby and the low-key Aaron are wonderful characters that I was happy to spend time with.
So go see “Bros”, please! You will laugh, think and feel things. And that’s why we go to the cinema, right?
“My Best Friend’s Exorcism”
Drenched in muted rainbow hues, teenage angst, and glossy lip gloss, this midlife horror flick is a bizarre love note to the nightmarish nature of being best friends in high school. Abby (Elsie Fisher) and Gretchen (Amiah Miller) have very different family lives, but they’re as close as it gets. They’re the kind of friends who know each other’s inner thoughts, ways, and secrets in a scary yet safe way.
But when Gretchen is possessed during a weekend getaway at a lakeside cabin, things quickly go from dramatic to demonic. Religious repression, teen bullying, and horror tropes abound.
Despite its horror movie vibes, this Amazon Prime deal never gets really scary. While there’s plenty of possessed vomiting, disturbing behavior and gruesome trappings in this vibrant late ’80s tale of high school friendships gone sour, “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” falls more on the wacky, comedic side of the horror spectrum. Imagine if “Mean Girls” and “The Exorcist” had a mediocre but quite interesting child.
The film is at its best when it explores the confusing and chaotic feeling of close friendships at impressionable ages, as well as the hilarious and terrifying feelings and experiences you share growing up. One day everything is perfect and the next day your life seems to burn around you.
What do you do when the person closest to you in the whole world suddenly appears as a totally alien entity? How do you help someone in a terrible situation if helping them makes them hate you? It’s a weird, bittersweet place that anyone who’s had the magical, hellish experience of navigating close high school friendships can relate to, thanks in large part to the excellent performances and chemistry of Miller and Fisher, who are both enchanting in their respective roles.
Now, that’s not me saying “The Exorcism of My Best Friend” is a great movie. The script isn’t the best executed, and the secondary characters in particular are treated more like afterthoughts. While it’s able to tap into that particularly confusing time when everything is both the best and the worst possible experience, the script is quite clunky whenever it stumbles upon more serious topics like self-harm, abuse sex, eating disorders and toxic relationships. . She, like the grassroots girls, feels confused and unsure of how best to handle these aspects and it shows.
There’s a fine, delicate balance to telling emotionally impactful stories intertwined with hyper-stylized fantasy plots, especially when you also want those movies to be relatively funny. Or scary. Or both. It’s something that HBO’s “Doom Patrol” truly excels in season after season, managing to present emotionally complex storylines that explore trauma while being incredibly funny and grounded in its weird, super-powered world.
So it can be done, but it’s a tough needle to try and thread, and “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” just doesn’t handle the “deeper” elements it touches well enough.
That being said, it’s still a weird, silly, over-the-top, flawed, but (to me) enjoyable watch. While there certainly could have been a spectacular version of this movie, this one is still entertaining and far more enjoyable than the rage-inducing mess that was the last horror movie I saw Elsie Fisher in. (I’m talking about you, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Yes, I’m still mad. I’ll probably still be mad.) If you’re looking for something lighter on the horror spectrum for spooky season, I recommends that you give “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” since.