Review: Fire Island

Raunchy, but ultimately sweet, Andrew Ahn’s Fire Island is an unapologetically gay romantic comedy that puts the spotlight on a host of actors and their relationships with each other.

Joel Kim Booster stars as Noah, who joins his friends on their annual trip to Fire Island. Noah is hoping to land a man for his best friend Howie (Bowen Yang) while trying to enjoy himself as well. Noah and Howie are joined by their friends Luke (Matt Rogers), Keegan (Tomas Matos), Max (Torian Miller), and their island host Erin (Margaret Cho).

While on the island, the group learn Erin will be unable to host in the future, marking the final trip to the island. Noah meets a rich group on the island led by Charlie (James Scully). Noah sees Charlie as a potential partner, but has to put up with Charlie’s stern friend Will (Conrad Ricamora). The film is based on Pride & Predjudice and follows the storyline very closely (under a modern setting, of course).

Make no mistake, this is not a production where gayness is snuck in between the lines or implied. Every character without exception is gay and open in their gayness. And this is also not a situation where it’s a sweet story of chaste relationships. All the characters are established adults looking for sexual partners and those desires are expressed bluntly and often. This is a gay story with no tolerance for the heterosexual experience.

That being said, the themes involved are universal. Noah wants his friend to be happy at the expense of his own happiness. Class themes are heavily explored. The friendships between the main group almost take precedent over the central love stories. The themes allow the film to actually transcend the sexual dynamics and reach a much more poignant place.

Booster and Yang are the stars of the show. Booster exudes the confidence of someone who knows exactly who he is and his circumstances. Yang is the perfect complement as a man devoid of the security of self. The two play well off each other and the dreaded conclusion of their eventual pairing was luckily avoided.

On the opposite side, Scully is a bit of a shiny sunshine, but ultimately blank. Ricamora might give my favorite performance as the mirror to Mr. Darcy. His characterization is deep and complex, providing the grounding the film needs around all the fun chaos. That chaos is personified in the performances of Matos and Rogers, who dial it up to 11 at every opportunity. They illicit some of the biggest laughs throughout the film without ever wearing out their welcome.

This film is ultimately about the steps you take to care for your friends. Love is a part of that, but it’s more of a fringe benefit that the main point. It was a lot of fun.

Fire Island is now streaming on Hulu
Score: 3.5/5.0

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