Fire Island

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

Fire Island
dir Andrew Ahn
scr Joel Kim Booster
prd John Hodges, Tony Hernandez, Brooke Posch
with Joel Kim Booster, Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricamora, James Scully, Margaret Cho, Matt Rogers, Tomas Matos, Torian Miller, Nick Adams, Zane Phillips, Michael Graceffa, Aidan Wharton
release US/UK 3.Jun.22
22/US Searchlight 1h45

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Snappy and sassy, this queer comedy ripples with energetic wit and real-life characters who cleverly manage to transcend the usual stereotypes. A snarky adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, emphasis on pride, the film is written and directed with a continual stream of hilarious gags. And it goes much deeper than that, deliberately upending the cliches to tell a story that's knowing, pointed and surprisingly involving.
Noah (Booster) is excited to get out of New York and visit "Gay Disneyland", aka Fire Island, for a week-long vacation with his four best friends: shy tech expert Howie (Yang), serious Max (Miller) and delusional queens Luke and Keegan (Rogers and Matos). They're staying with their adopted party-girl mother Erin (Cho). They're also 10 years older now, and can feel the world changing around them. Perhaps it's time to settle down with a boyfriend. While Howie meets nice guy doctor Charlie (Scully), his snooty lawyer friend Will (Ricamora) is difficult for Noah to escape.
Packed with jaggedly funny asides the screenplay also acknowledges LGBTQ history while celebrating hard-won freedoms. It's also packed with amusing observations such as how, in the gay world, class is determined by race, economics and abs. So Noah's group lives on a budget; Charlie's is in the lap of luxury. The bones of Austen's novel make the plot a bit predictable, but the smart adaptation catches us off guard. And the idea of friends as family is powerfully played without sentimentality.

Rarely wearing more than a speedo, Booster's Noah is a likeable guy who pledges loyalty to Howie, eschewing his usual hookups to help Howie find someone meaningful. He's also cynical and judgmental, which adds layers to his journey. Ricamora finds surprising textures that make his character much more than expected. And Yang is hugely endearing, giving Howie a big heart as a guy who goes against the grain by seeking a deeper connection with someone.

Booster's script refreshingly never waters things down for a mainstream audience, which gives the film a proper sense of lustiness and a provocative kick of resonant meaning. You don't need to know Alice Munro from Cherry Jones to get the jokes, although it helps. And the shrewd references to a range of romantic comedies puts this film into its own historical context. But it's the way the story zeroes in on emotional realities that makes it a potential classic. Not only is it bitingly funny, but it also leaves us feeling all the love.

cert 15 themes, language. sexuality 29.May.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall