Fire Island is a modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. An arrogant jerk (Joel Kim Booster) clashes with an uptight lawyer (MVP Conrad Ricamora) while vacationing in Cherry Grove. His sad bestie (Bowen Yang) falls for a dopey doctor (James Scully). This draws the ire of the doctor’s snooty friends. Booster’s screenplay keeps Austen’s plot and class politics. He loses her charm.
This film is uncomfortable with sincerity. Booster’s interest in Ricamora is purely physical. He insults him until he’s ready to bang him. Yang’s courtship with the doctor is kept off screen. Booster called the story a celebration of friendship. But his character bullies Yang and ignores the rest of the group. The heartfelt moments fall flat.
More successful are the scenes of broad comedy. Booster’s friends (Margaret Cho, Tomas Matos, Matt Rogers and Torian Miller) are noisy clowns who leave chaos in their wake. The racist antagonists (led by Nick Adams) are musclebound airheads. The film gleefully objectifies their bodies while railing against their “no fats, no femmes, no Asians” attitudes. For all Booster’s posturing he never challenges the body culture. The film’s only bear is dismissed as a killjoy.
Most LGBT+ media is focused on the challenge of surviving a straight world. Fire Island assembles an all queer cast to navigate the hierarchies gay men place themselves in. I admire its ambition more than its execution. Still, it’s better than Before the Fall, 2016’s gay adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. That work was somber while this one is joyful. I just wish the film cared about the relationships as much as the eye candy and quips.