Fire Island is Hulu's most recent romantic comedy and the latest spin on the Jane Austen classic, Pride and Prejudice. Sadly, great LGBTQ+ films are still somewhat difficult to come by, especially ones with happy endings. "Bury Your Gays" is a popular phrase for the entertainment industry's tendency to give LGBTQ+ characters a bad ending: such as death, heartbreak, turning straight, or worse. While some sad endings are narratively justified, it's such a common ending that finding a happy gay couple is exciting, and Fire Island is just that movie.
The film takes inspiration from New York's real Fire Island, which has been home to a gay resort and afternoon tea dances since the 1950s. It follows the friendship of 5 gay men spending their last summer together at the resort, while also attempting to hook up along the way. While it certainly has its flaws, this is a wonderfully diverse addition to LGBTQ+ film!
The movie pulls you in right off the bat, as a gay men's chorus sings the Searchlight Pictures tune, off-key. There is hardly a single moment where the humor takes a break. The strength of the comedy can be off-putting to some, hence, the reviews of Fire Island are quite mixed. It especially focuses on sexual, club-crawling humor and LGBTQ+ jargon, situations, and jokes that the general public could get lost on. However, I have not seen a single rom-com that isn't over-exaggerated, it's just part of the genre. That being said, this movie employs many staples of rom-coms including a dance scene, a karaoke sing-a-long, party games, walking on the beach, and even the ever-loved chasing your love before they leave trope. Although these are common tropes, they're used in refreshing ways, and it truly feels like this movie was made by people with these lived experiences. The director explains:
“For [writer] Joel Kim Booster, part of the reason he made this [movie] was so that he could go on vacation with his best friend Bowen on the island. It was a way to make work and pleasure happen at the same time. When he told me that, I really wanted to make sure that we never forgot that the spirit of this project was to go and have fun in the way that these characters are having fun.” — Director Andrew Ahn
You might be wondering how this is related to Pride and Prejudice. It may not obviously evoke the Austen piece right off the bat, after all, you likely imagine corsets, ball gowns, and dowries instead of crop tops, booze, and neon lights. However, Noah and his refusal to understand his own feelings, while wondering about Howie, is exactly what Jane Austen was all about. The modern topics and humor take this film to the 21st century, adding a refreshing touch to a good rom-com.
This film is an absolute gem for diversity. The main two groups are the Asian and LGBTQ+ communities. The main two characters are Asian. There are other actors, both of color and white, who play supporting roles to the main cast. There is no straight person unnecessarily shoehorned into the film. It's not strange for Women to be excluded from a gay male film, but the film has one lesbian woman who acts much like a mother to the main cast. This woman is played by Margaret Cho, and honestly, she is one of the highlights of this movie.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of this film is that it is written, directed, and acted by LGBTQ+ actors. Although we have been getting more LGBTQ+ representation over the years, the roles are often still played by cisgender, heterosexual actors. Having this diversity in its production definitely helps it be relevant and realistic to the communities it portrays.
Pride and Prejudice has been reimagined more times than I can count. But considering it was written in 1813, it can sometimes get awkward in a modern retelling. One of my biggest problems with Fire Island, was that for the entire movie, Noah can't hook up with anyone simply because he wants his best friend Howie to find someone first. This doesn't really work because Noah's hesitation with love in fear of being hurt was motivation enough. Also, modern people hardly ever have this kind of pact anymore. Along this line, it sort of made the main couple, Howie and Charlie, quite boring, as Noah was the one with more interesting conflict with Will.
This film is 98% rom-com and 2% serious, because, while it deals with a few more serious topics, it's lacking something to truly drive those subjects home. Perhaps it's because this film follows the typical rom-com formula and almost all of its best parts are outside that line. It leaves me wishing it wasn't a Pride and Prejudice spinoff and instead hoping that both Booster and Ahn ran wild and free with it. Maybe I'm just tired of rom-coms continuing their same traditions for decades and was hoping that an LGBTQ+ team could serve me something unique and not as rushed. They focused much more on the fun rather than any real plot.
Despite all of this, the romances do make your heart flutter, especially Noah and Will's. The film goes through the ups and downs of romance while giving us the gay couple we've always wanted, it just left me wanting more. Regardless, I feel like Fire Island is a wonderful addition to the genre and worth a watch for Pride Month if you're looking for some laughs.