Pride month is officially underway and just in time to kick things off and ring in the summer season is Searchlight Pictures’ Fire Island, a hilarious and heartfelt modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Premiering June 3 on Hulu, the queer, raunchy rom-com is written by and stars actor-comedian Joel Kim Booster as Noah, a lovelorn thirtysomething who goes on an annual trip to the gay haven that is the Fire Island Pines with his best friends Howie (Saturday Night Live’s Bowen Yang), Keegan (Tomás Matos), Luke (Matt Rogers) and Max (Torian Miller). Grab your swimsuits and cocktails, it’s going to be a wild weekend!
Once the ensemble reaches their beachy destination, Noah makes it his personal mission to get his very single and very sad bestie Howie laid before the end of their summer trip. But soon their typically joyful yearly vacation turns into a requiem when their host and dear friend Erin (Margaret Cho) shares she is selling her Fire Island summer home and this will be their last summer on the island together.
While at a nearby bar, Howie gets the attention of Charlie, a handsome and rather dopey doctor played by James Scully (You), while Noah goes for Charlie’s friend Will, a successful lawyer from San Francisco stoically yet endearingly played by Conrad Ricamora (How To Get Away With Murder). Will is a man of few words and Noah takes that as him casting judgment over him and his loud and proud friends, so he starts to have some reservations about the guy. They are the Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy of the story and the will-they-or-won’t-they-just-do-it tension is palpable between the two.
Noah is the type who has built up a lot of emotional fortitude and is afraid to let his guard down beyond his tight inner circle. He also tends to put others first before sorting out his own personal life, which has led to heartbreak and being dismissed by others, and Joel Kim Booster plays all of that to great effect. Bowen Yang’s Howie (pictured below, center) is quite the opposite and wears his heart on his sleeve as he searches for that romantic novelesque relationship with the perfect guy. Yang more than holds his own amongst a hilarious ensemble, just as he does time and again on SNL. But he is also surprisingly good in the more dramatic and emotional scenes.
Ricamora’s Will starts off as stand-offish and dismissive of the insanity around him, but as the film progresses, he loosens up and you can’t help but love the guy. Luke and Keegan, played by Matt Rogers (above, left) and Tomás Matos (above, right), are total scene-stealers and are my new favorite comedy duo. Someone write them a sequel, please!
Fire Island isn’t the first iteration of Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, nor will it be the last as Hollywood cuts corners where they can by adapting and readapting literary classics. Much like 1995’s updated take on another Jane Austen classic Emma in the hit Clueless, however, Fire Island completely reworks the familiar premise of Pride & Prejudice by not just setting it in the modern day but by putting characters from the marginalized and underrepresented BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities at the forefront.
Not only does this movie wonderfully advance diversity without marketing itself as “the first major studio gay rom-com with an all LGBTQ+ and mostly BIPOC cast” -- which it very much is -- but it manages to tackle some very serious and very real issues that occur within the queer community. This should be expected given that Austen’s stories always provide commentary on the social issues of her time, whether regarding class or the treatment of women in society.
Fire Island weaves in themes of privilege and prejudice, from body type and race to social status and infighting within the LGBTQ+ community, so seamlessly that it almost catches you off guard when they’re addressed. I guarantee so many queer people are going to feel seen and represented in this movie, whether they fall amongst the larger-than-life, finger-snapping, “yas gurl”-ing queens; the more reserved, wallflower types; or somewhere in between the two.
Also touched upon are the varying perspectives within the queer community regarding relationships. Noah wants to do away with sole partners and expectations of marriage and monogamy while that is exactly what Howie wants: a happily ever after that he just can’t seem to get a grasp on.
While lots of LGBTQ+ stories play out like Greek tragedies, Fire Island is just pure fun, hilarity and queer joy, and like any good rom com, the payoff is that the things that are meant to be are allowed to be. What those things are exactly, I’ll leave for you to watch and find out.
Fire Island premieres June 3 on Hulu.
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