The Year of the Bromance

Complicated male friendships thrive on film in 2022

The days of the bromance that stands for nothing and has no unique quirks or human characteristics to make it worth watching have long passed. Pop the champagne, because the bromance renaissance is here.

The bromance is not so much a film genre, but a characteristic that appeals to film buffs and frat bros alike. While bromance films can be any genre, one thing is consistent: these films boast strong, “platonic” male friendships rooted in the support for, and a mutual understanding of, the characters’ differing personalities and struggles.

It may not seem like it on the surface,  but there is a lot that goes into making campy bromantic cinema. The characters need to be compelling enough for viewers to want to connect with them, otherwise the movies stick us with drab dialogue and uninteresting plotlines, like in The Hangover sequels. Additionally, the actors’ chemistry is essential in making their casual, and dramatic, moments feel realistic. If a bromance film doesn’t have both elements, it is guaranteed to fail–if not as a film, then as a bromance. No one goes to the movies to watch a group of men awkwardly attempt to fill the silence.

So far, 2022’s bromances have avoided these filmmaking pitfalls better than other movies this year, and, in the process, have explored strong male friendships in clever ways.

Some films use the bromance as a side narrative or a tool to drive the central narrative forward. This is especially the case in Cooper Raiff’s eccentric and heartwarming sophomore feature, Cha Cha Real Smooth (streaming now on Apple TV+). Granted, most of the film centers around the budding relationship between main character Andrew (Cooper Raiff) and love-interest Domino (Dakota Johnson). But, a surprising amount of the film’s heart actually comes from Andrew’s relationship with his brother David (Evan Assante), as Andrew tries to give him advice on growing up, finding love and experiencing life. The result: a unique, yet not overdone look at the complexities of being an older brother.

Bromance and gasoline fuel Top Gun: Maverick (in cinemas now). A film with bromantic spirit from start to finish, the intense rivalry between new characters Rooster (Miles Teller) and Hangman (Glen Powell), who are both vying to be mission leader, has the classic ‘frenemy’ aura to it. Plus, in the final action sequence, when their mission becomes more complicated than they could have imagined, the film becomes a buddy comedy between Rooster and Maverick (Tom Cruise). You can either define Top Gun by its intense flight sequences or by its loving, almost too saccharine relationships. Director Joseph Kosinski gives us both.

Miles Teller and Tom Cruise, having a ‘Top Gun’ bromance.

The most affecting bromance films of 2022, however, are the films that, without their central bromances, wouldn’t exist.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (available now on VOD platforms), a meta film where Nicholas Cage plays himself, is the ultimate bromance comedy. For the most part, the film feels like its makers assembled it on a production line, making it a by-the-books spy comedy that doesn’t do justice to its ingenious premise. It only works because of Cage’s and his superfan Javi’s (Pedro Pascal) deeply affectionate relationship. The most (and arguably only) enjoyable parts of the film are the sequences where the two get up to random hijinks together. A particular sequence involving the two tripping on LSD, is the contender for the best comedy sequence of the year. Cage and Pascal have an almost overwhelming, romance-film-lead level of chemistry, aggressively commanding the audience’s attention even when the story itself is paper-thin.

Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal in ‘The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.’

Carey Williams’ Emergency (streaming now on Amazon Prime Video) is one of the year’s most underrated films that depends on its bromance elements. The film walks a fine line between comedy and thriller. It centers around three male college students of color who discover a passed-out young woman in their living room and must drive her to the hospital unnoticed. The film’s bromance is the source of all its comedic elements, allowing the characters to turn their connection, and frustration, with one another into jokes. Regardless of the characters’ situational anger, it is heartwarming to see the ways in which they are always there for one another: a key precursor for a good bromance to thrive.

Finally, RRR (streaming now on Netflix), the Tollywood hit that is captivating audiences worldwide with its intense action sequences and brilliant stunt work. The bromance starts when the two main characters meet while swinging from ropes under a bridge, trying to save a child in the waters below. Their deeply sewn, unwavering connection to one another forms the beating heart of the entire film. When the two finally get a chance to combine their bromance tendencies with their incredible fighting skills, one of the year’s most thrilling sequences results (spoiler with no context: piggyback ride).

The central factor connecting these films is that they are unafraid of creating male friendships that bypass stereotypes. They aren’t scared of coming off “sappy” or “soft.” Instead, these films infuse their characters with genuine emotion, making both the individuals, and their friendships, feel realistic and relatable. By the time these films end credit start rolling, the “bro power” will have you cheering, tearing up, or both.

The shift in bromance films is far-reaching. The films themselves are more interesting, centering around original stories that often bend genre and tone. The on-screen bromance is (thankfully) no longer trapped in the slapstick comedy subgenre. They allow their characters to be smart and sophisticated. Audiences can connect with the characters on-screen and their connections to one another. This makes the films worth more than their premises, allowing viewers to sink into the worlds their characters occupy, rather than viewing them from afar.

With blockbusters and independent films having breakout moments in 2022 – at least so far, and the moviegoing experience recovering smoothly, bromances are in a prime position to reap this year’s theatrical benefits.

Bromance
‘RRR’.

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Kaveh Jalinous

Kaveh Jalinous is a New York City-based freelance journalist specializing in the world of film and television, as well as a working filmmaker and screenwriter. He is currently pursuing a degree in Film and Media Studies at Columbia University, and in his free time, he enjoys playing guitar.

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