'Fire Island' review: An enjoyable multicultural queer romp
Courtesy of Searchlight/Hulu
A lavish cinematic escape outfitted with one of the more ethnic and culturally diverse casts, “Fire Island,” despite some narrative miscues, is an enjoyable queer romp. Inspired by Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” “Fire Island” basks in the popular New York state queer destination where the film takes place, following a group of close-knit friends looking for a love connection (or hook-up) in paradise. Located off the South Shore of Long Island, director Andrew Ahn makes excellent use of the stunning locale and the screenplay by star Joel Kim Booster presents an honest and refreshing portrait of the Asian-American gay experience.
And that journey begins with Noah (Booster), who narrates the story with all the sass you’d expect from a hunky, knowledgeable, and thirsty vacationer of Fire Island. Noah is the film’s Elizabeth Bennet and he isn't afraid to flaunt what’s being sold, taking the bull by the horns. Booster is effortlessly engaging and relatable in these early scenes, chatting about student debut, inflation, and how himself and neither of his friends will be able to afford property. He can only justify the yearly vacation because his “chosen” mother, Erin (Margaret Cho) has a beachside villa, though her recent financial decisions mean this will be the last summer Noah and the boys can kick it.
This puts an urgency on Noah to get his best friend, Howie (“Saturday Night Live” scene stealer Bowen Yang) who has never had a boyfriend, into the sheets before the week concludes. As a show of unity, Noah promises to remain abstinent until such contractual obligations are met. From here, “Fire Island” falls into the usual doldrums of straight romantic comedies: there’s flirtations and chance encounters, but the heart remains sound. Howie meets Charlie (James Scully), and the two connect instantly, setting the stage for a charming tete-a-tete though Will (Conrad Ricamora), a snobbish friend within Charlie’s inner circle, tries to stir the pot, angering Noah in the process.
Of course, “Fire Island” won’t offer much surprise to those who’ve studied the handbook on rom-coms, but Booster bakes in several meta awareness jokes to acknowledge the predictability. It also doesn’t hurt that Yang and Booster have pitch-perfect chemistry, capturing a generational camaraderie which gives “Fire Island” plenty to lean into. Sure, there’s lingering asides felt throughout the movie about the lengths Howie’s friends, outside of Noah, will go to protect their own; not to mention a brief, porn-revenge subplot never ignites, but “Fire Island,” like Noah, never compromises its identity. It’s a much-needed dose of realism notoriously missing from the rom-com scene, and we can only hope that it’s not the last.
FIRE ISLAND debuts on Hulu, Friday June 3rd