An insight into the high drama of queer summers on The Pine is put on display in a classic romantic comedy for Hulu’s new film, “Fire Island.”
“Fire Island” follows a friend group of various queer twenty-somethings on their yearly pilgrimage to spend a week partying and hooking up on the titular island. The movie opens citing the first lines of Jane Austen’s classic “Pride and Prejudice” in a voiceover before interjecting how “that sounds like some hetero nonsense.” Setting the tone of the film, “Fire Island ” establishes itself as a non-traditional adaptation of the beloved Austen novel. We meet the leading man, Noah (played by Joel Kim Booster, also the film’s screenwriter), during his chaotic morning as he kicks out last night’s hookup and is running late to meet his friends on the ferry. They land on Fire Island and make their way to the house of Erin (Margaret Cho), an older lesbian who acts as a pseudo-mother to the group. The stakes of the annual party week are raised when Erin announces that she is losing the house, bringing an end to their time together.
Noah, who is usually a hit with his Fire Island escapades, makes it his mission to abstain from his usual activities until his inexperienced best friend, Howie (Bowen Yang), can get in on the action. When Howie makes longing eye contact with Charlie (James Scully), the film’s very own Mr. Bingley, Noah makes it his mission to bring the two together, but the matchmaking comes with a price. Charlie and his rather elitist and brooding friends, namely Will (Conrad Ricamora), the Mr. Darcy of the bunch, are brought together with Noah and his friends for the sake of Howie and Charlie. Prejudices come out when we learn Charlie, Will, and co. come from a wealthy background and look down on Noah and his less affluent friends. Throughout the film Noah maneuvers around the unpleasant and argumentative Will, whose charm ultimately makes Noah fall for him as he attempts to aid his helpless and hopeless romantic friend while keeping the rest of the group together to truly enjoy what seems to be a final hurrah for the pack.
The talented and delightful cast is one of the things that makes this film so fun. Ricamora as Will is the perfect Darcy combination of a brooding Colin Firth (“Pride and Prejudice” 1995) and a soulful Matthew Macfadyen (“Pride and Prejudice” 2005). Booster as Noah brings the classic determined, independent and quick-witted Lizzy Bennet to this film. Fans who are familiar with Yang’s work on “Saturday Night Live” will be pleased to see him in his usual funny and endearing comedic style along with a vulnerability he brings to Howie.
While there’s nothing remarkably original about “Fire Island,” it does a good job at what it is trying to do. The film does not need to be revolutionary. This retelling is very self-aware in the tropes and the rom-com movie moments; it provides love triangles, enemies to lovers, evil exes, found family and more. Happy queer stories are becoming more and more common in film and TV, as opposed to fifteen or twenty years ago when mostly queer stories ended in death or tragedy of some kind. It is very important for any given demographic to have a feel-good cheesy rom-com representing them. “Fire Island” provides just that in addition to making a perfect summer movie for anyone in the mood for some romantic yearning and hijinx.
With the rise of the English heritage/period films and an insurgence of Austen novels coming to the big screen, various adaptations begin to muddle together and feel too similar, representing the upper/middle-class White individuals of the regency era. However, the bones of an Austen novel remain prevalent and timeless, explaining why audiences and filmmakers are drawn back to it time and time again. Booster spins Pride and Prejudice into something that easily stands alone, takes these bones and configures the classic story in a fun and meaningful way while displaying and representing a whole different demographic. “Fire Island” has an intelligent way of exploring intersexuality within the queer community in a fun, yet real way, adding something new to what’s already there.
“Fire Island” is available to stream on Hulu.