Andrew Ahn ushers in Pride Month with his new release Fire Island, a delightfully funny and romantic film that is reminiscent of romance classics like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Set in the vacation-destination of any gay person’s dream the film explores the friendships and romances experienced by the eccentric group of friends on their week-long outing.
Director: Andrew Ahn
Release Date: June 3, 2022 (Hulu)
The plot might not seem like anything terribly new. A group of friends travel to their yearly vacation spot to have fun, get drunk, and have new flings on the very real Fire Island. As with any rom-com, things go awry and the drama begins to unfold. We follow Noah (Joel Kim Booster) as our lead. He’s headstrong, passionate about his friends, and makes it his duty to get his best friend Howie (Bowen Yang) laid.
Within the first few minutes of Fire Island, we are rapidly introduced to our main cast. Alongside Noah and Howie there is Max (Torian Miller), Luke (Matt Rogers), Keegan (Tomás Matos), and Erin (Margaret Cho) – their lesbian “mother” – staying together in their house on Fire Island. As with Austen’s Bennet sisters, each character has their own personality that fits together to form a unique family of queer people.
On their first day on the island the group runs into Charlie (James Scully) and Will (Conrad Ricomora). Charlie and Howie immediately hit it off, while Will and Noah rub each other the wrong way. Noah continues to encourage Howie to make his move with Charlie but is continuously thwarted by Will and eventually the surprise arrival of Charlie’s ex-boyfriend Rhys (Michael Graceffa).
Although the plot is familiar to anyone who knows the story of Pride and Prejudice, Fire Island brings its own flair and wit to the film through the queer perspective. Ahn and Booster, who are gay themselves, utilize the history and realness of Fire Island (which is by Long Island in New York) to set the stage for a film that features no straight people. Literally, there is not a single straight person in the movie! Ahn centers queer actors and characters to craft a rom-com that caters to the desire for that classic story. A boat chase and an almost-kiss in the rain, devices that are commonplace in the genre of rom-com, are carefully placed in Fire Island to make audiences root for the central cast and their budding relationships.
I talked about queer rom-coms when I covered NewFest’s Queering the Canon: Rom-Coms. I’m excited to already see more gay movies that feature no homophobia, tragedy, or death. And during the beginning of Pride Month as well! Making films that show that queer people can have a love story where no one dies is important for a multitude of reasons. The “bury your gays” trope is overused and instills notions that gay characters are not as important as their straight counterparts. Also, it normalizes gay relationships when they’re depicted on screen (especially when made by and for other gay people).
Fire Island gives all of its characters a happy ending. It’s a funny, sexy, and fresh film that gives me the same feeling as hanging out with other queer people in queer spaces. That sense of understanding and not needing to hide yourself is captured in the writing and performances of Fire Island.
The group casually talks about PrEP, monogamy, and so many other topics related to their lives as queer and sexually active individuals. That’s another thing that makes Fire Island such a unique take on Pride and Prejudice, it really shows the physical and emotional desire between Noah and Will, and even Howie and Charlie. Fire Island allows itself to be so many things at once, highlighting the intricacies of queer relationships.
For years I have dreamt of a Jane Austen retelling that lends itself to queer audiences. Fire Island absolutely delivers and does so within the framework of queer history and community. The soundtrack features pop music loved by the queer community (including a Charli XCX remix). The fashion is fun and trendy and fits each character amazingly well. Even the writing touches on fatphobia, racism, toxic masculinity, and hypersexuality which are all very real issues within the queer community.
Fire Island delivers a heartwarming and dazzling new take on a centuries-old tale. Even though the plot’s general direction is familiar, Fire Island and its characters make it feel brand new. With June starting, Pride, and summer are well on their way and Fire Island is the perfect new summer gay film for everyone to enjoy.