‘Fire Island’ Movie Review: Austen Translates Seamlessly In A Vibrant & Hilarious Adaptation
The film Fire Island, which was just released on Hulu via Searchlight Pictures, had a long journey here from its initial announcement in 2019 as a series on the short-lived video streaming app Quibi.
Now a rom-com film instead of a micro-series, Fire Island brilliantly uses the foundation of Jane Austen’s widely-loved novel Pride and Prejudice to tell the story of a group of longtime friends reconvening for a trip to the famous gay village off Long Island’s South Shore.
Every character has a moment to shine, but the core group consisting of Joel Kim Booster, SNL star Bowen Yang, Matt Rogers, Tomás Matos, Torian Miller and Margaret Cho, are all perfectly cast and mesh very well as a believable bunch of close friends.
Booster, who also penned the script, writes the core ensemble of his chosen family lovingly but also doesn’t shy away from scenes exploring these characters’ flaws and how they both support and fail each other throughout this story.
In the same way that Booster’s script doesn’t shy away from creating nuanced characters, it also sharply points out flaws of the community he still loves by highlighting issues of toxic body standards, racism and elitism that still follow these queer men even in their safest havens.
With Booster’s Noah and Yang’s Howie performing very well as the Elizabeth and Jane Bennett of our story, their romantic interests needed to be just as compelling. James Scully does a good turn as a kind and earnest doctor who takes a liking to Howie, but Conrad Ricamora depicts the Mr. Darcy-insert Will as a brilliant foil to Noah.
Ricamora contrasts the general energy and exuberance of the core cast with his initial haughty and prideful demeanor. Ricamora even sold one of the film’s funniest early moments, which showed the whole group counting down a sunset on a dock cheerily while he grimaced in the foreground.
Even if you know the outcome of Pride and Prejudice, an excellent element of the core romance in this film is that it actually feels like a genuine “will-they, won’t-they?” As opposed to romantic comedies where the lovers are maybe a little too star-crossed.
Noah and Will begin the film very much at odds but come together in a sweet way. Who knows, they may drift apart by the end of the summer, but the developing courtship we see is both grounded, but still very funny thanks to the script and cast that brought it to life.
Yang also delivers a career-high performance with Howie. He may be best-known for gut-busting characters on SNL, but Yang also anchors some of the film’s most emotional moments with true grace and vulnerability. And while they both could have gotten much more screentime, Rogers and Matos were absolute revelations as the energetic duo of Luke and Keegan who reliably delivered some of the film’s best comic relief.
Andrew Ahn, who last directed the 2019 film Driveways, helms Fire Island with locations and shots all rich with detail but never too distracting or overwhelming. The colors and light quality of Fire Island also just felt so consistently warm and romantic, and will probably have you planning your next beach trip by the time it’s finished.
If you’re looking for a sweet, funny, and refreshing romantic comedy with one of the most likable casts to grace the silver screen in a long time, Fire Island is a phenomenal choice and a great watch.
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