Starring Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang, 'Fire Island' promised to be the LGBTQ+ answer to Jane Austen's 1813 novel. But we were kind of disappointed.
The story begins very on the nose with Noah (Joel Kim Booster) quoting the first line of Austen's novel, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife". He scoffs, the non-committal Kiera Knightly of it all.
The film was meant to be a- nay, the gay 'Pride and Prejudice'; we expected that rain-soaked, articulate, ardent 19th century love story made modern and gay. We didn't get that. So, we're going to be as blunt as Noah would be about it.
While they did achieve "modern" and "gay", we completely missed the deep, feverish, yelling at your lover in a field type parts. We were teased with cute moments between Howie (Bowen Yang) and Charlie (James Scully), but we never got to see the ugly "could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your circumstances" side to them.
Nor any real intimacy; their relationship doesn't have those harrowing Austen highs and lows — Howie shows him his artwork, Charlie stays up with Howie while he's vomiting, and yes, Charlie does something bad but we don't care because why would we? Their story is too tame to matter.
It's not like we needed a gaggle of gays in corseted gowns at a grand ball talking like poets, but the only clear reference to the original movie is the one moody lad not wearing a crop top or having any fun at all on this queer party island. You'd have guessed he was the 'Mr Darcy' from a mile away.
In fairness, it was an ambitious film to make; it deals with classism and racism on a queer party island while echoing a cult-classic. So it was a big ask. But in terms of diversifying the industry and RomComs in general, we do give it props.
The reality of queer peoples' existence onscreen is brought to life beyond just being a bitchy but lovable best friend to some blonde woman. They offer us the nuance that's often not afforded to the LGBTQ+ community onscreen; the group is a multicultural mix of gay people with unique personalities from all sorts of backgrounds.
We are teased with genuinely funny moments from when the besties worked at a brunch place, but it serves as a super brief flashback where we would have liked to see some more of the development of Noah and Howie's friendship.
The story also deals with a nonconsensual sexual scenario and they give it such little attention where detail, emotions, and a feel for the aftermath would've given it the space it deserves. These things need breathing room and not a brief flash in the pan.
We wonder whether it would've been stronger as a series with a little more room for the narrative that can't fit comfortably into 105 minutes and doesn't know how to tie itself up by the end.
We wanted our protagonists to be divided by who they wanted to win 'Drag Race', with monologues about the queen who has bewitched them. We wanted a bear telling a twink that "In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you". Was it too much to ask? There'd be more passion in the George on a Saturday night.
'Fire Island' comes out on Disney+ on the 3rd of June.