Written by: Joel Kim Booster
Starring: Joel Kim Booster, Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricamora, James Scully, Margaret Cho
Classic novels being repurposed to tell modern stories have been produced with tremendous success in the last few decades, which proves these stories are truly timeless. This has happened with much prominence with Shakespeare’s tales but also very famously with Jane Austen. Fire Island takes inspiration from “Pride and Prejudice” in a brilliant way to craft a joyous romantic comedy with so much heart.
Every year, Noah (Joel Kim Booster) and his friends spend a week at Fire Island with a bevy of other homosexual men for a segment of time typically filled with plenty of casual sex and the consumption of drugs. This year, Noah hopes plans to ensure his friend Howie (Bowen Yang) gets his first sexual encounter while he begins a contentious courtship with a man on the island.
“Pride and Prejudice” not only stands as one of Jane Austen’s best works as a writer but it also has the story with the greatest film adaptation with the 2005 film starring Keira Knightley. It’s certainly a story with many admirers, including myself and this feature inhabits all that makes it great while adapting it to it a different culture with its own issues. This film balances it all for something so entertaining but also emotionally moving just as one should expect with this story serving as the inspiration.
The success of this particular adaptation comes from the individual at the center of it all, Joel Kim Booster who has the writing credit for the feature but also stars in the leading role. He utilizes this story to talk about the inequities within the male homosexual world in a digestible manner that anyone can see and appreciate. He delves into what gets deemed desirable amongst this group, which unsurprisingly means white, but also incredibly physically fit. Anyone outside this particular mold then gets seen as someone who does not belong in specific circles. This becomes evident when they arrive on the island and attend various gatherings filled with other shirtless men. This can certainly cause emotional insecurity amongst those who do not fit in the preferred mold and it makes sense. After all, men, no matter their sexuality, inherently fall for what is on the outside.
With the use of a timeless tale of the inspiration for one’s story, there is the risk of predictability as to how the story will unfold. If you’ve read or seen a Pride and Prejudice adaptation, you pretty much know how things will transpire, in general. It becomes the prerogative of the writer to add their own elements to it which Joel Kim Booster certainly does. He also delivers in a wonderful way with his performance as the central character of the story. He works so well with the other actors in creating a familial bond between them that no matter what conflict will appear later, a natural love undoubtedly exists between these men. Comedically this film sings and hits its heights when Noah and his group are together. The chemistry between them is absolutely electric. They each bring their own personality and element to the team that makes every moment spent with them so enjoyable. This works effectively well when you add Erin portrayed brilliantly by Margaret Cho. Everything happening in that house is so much fun, which then turns the adventures they get into when on other parts of the island a bit of a step-down but necessary for the plot. No kidding, I would watch a whole movie with just that group in that house getting into different shenanigans.
A surprise that did not hit me until the final credits scene was that the director at the helm of this feature was Andrew Ahn. A director who created the beautifully tender and thoughtful Driveways and with his third go-around as a feature director he definitely went the more bombastic route with Fire Island, and with it he gets a larger budget and scope for him to navigate. Unsurprisingly he does a marvelous job as you can see his progression as a filmmaker, which makes me even more excited for what else he has in store for his bright career.
Fire Island is unabashedly gay in its content and the celebration of being born that way. It follows this group of friends through an experience where they can be themselves with absolutely no shame and it feels great that we can have a film with characters of this sexual orientation just enjoying themselves. It’s hilarious and has so many sweet moments built in throughout as one should expect when it comes to a film following the plot point of such a beloved story. However, that’s only half the battle, the challenge comes in the adaptation and Joel Kim Booster does a fantastic job along with Andrew Ahn’s trademark tender and heartfelt direction.