Fire Island (2022)
June 5, 2022 6:20 PM - Subscribe

A pair of best friends set out to have a legendary week-long summer vacation with the help of cheap rosé and a group of eclectic friends.

Written by and starring Joel Kim Booster, Fire Island updates Austen's Pride and Prejudice and explores class, race, and chosen family. With Margaret Cho as Erin and Bowen Yang as Howie respectively — the Mrs. Bennet and Jane roles.

Variety: Joel Kim Booster Doesn’t Need Gay Rom-Com ‘Fire Island’ to Be Palatable for ‘Certain People’
NYT: For Joel Kim Booster, Making ‘Fire Island’ Was a Real Trip
Vulture: Pride and Prejudice and Fire Island
posted by gladly (16 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who is not an Asian gay man, it was SO nice to watch a whole movie not centered around my experience. I think this definitely blends great bits of seriousness and humor, and was just a fun watch. Also, Bowen Yang was so fantastic and made me sob.
posted by knownassociate at 5:53 AM on June 6, 2022 [2 favorites]

Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang are such a cute friend duo. I also very much want that house they were staying in.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:41 AM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I also very much want that house they were staying in.

Even if it's the only house on Fire Island without a hot tub.
posted by knownassociate at 10:14 AM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

I really liked this!

I had a revelation about Howie- he's sort of a combined Jane/Charlotte role. He's got the worry over being unpartnered and getting older like Charlotte; he also has that conversation about how Noah has gotten buff/more attractive, but he hasn't. And then, the creepy guy is the Mr. Collins stand in, with Howie almost giving in and settling for him (but luckily not!)

Also I'm just going to be over here swooning over Conrad Ricamora who hit the "really just kind of shy and awkward but accidentally comes off like a jerk" Mr. Darcy vibe perfectly.
posted by damayanti at 6:29 PM on June 6, 2022 [13 favorites]

I don't know anything about Fire Island as a community, but I loved this as a rom-com and a modernization of Austen. Booster kept so much of Austen's structure and then wrote an incredibly funny, touching, personal story. I'm wildly impressed with it.

I totally agree that Howie is a Jane/Charlotte mixture who avoids the Mr. Collins fate. Yang's delivery of how Noah tries to pretend the world isn't the way it is broke my heart. I loved their friendship and that the plot turned on Noah trying to repair it.

What I really loved, though, was the ending. Booster doesn't give into the marriage plot or the monogamy ending. He stays true to his characters and what their lives would be. They get love and friendship and family on their terms.
posted by gladly at 7:58 PM on June 6, 2022 [7 favorites]

I think the parts I liked most were the parts that weren't components of the standard romantic comedy package -- the examination of what it's like when a space that's ostensibly for marginalized people is also actively hostile to the "wrong kind" of marginalized people, the Noah and Howie friendship and the ways it gets tested, and the refusal to create some last minute miracle to save the house at the end.

Weirdly enough, even though I love Pride and Prejudice, the parts I liked least about this were the parts that hewed too closely to the book IMO. I didn't need an analog for Anne DeBourgh or Caroline Bingley, and the stuff about the rivalry for Will's affections just bored me. I wish we'd gotten a little more about Will instead, like what it's like being the one Asian guy in Charlie's toxic inner circle.
posted by creepygirl at 10:36 PM on June 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

At one point, Margaret Cho moans that she's bad with money - she invested in Quibi, even! Quibi was the original investor in "Fire Island". Zing!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:53 AM on June 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

This was charming! Reminded me of a lot of the elements when I was into drugs.

It was a kind exploration of race, too.
posted by porpoise at 7:57 PM on June 12, 2022

Enjoyed this quite a bit and need to talk about it, sorry for the long post. I'll put my questions up front.

Is there some detailed and possibly tedious analysis of specific parallels to Pride & Prejudice? It's been decades since high school English and now I'm tempted to reread the book, would love to have a guide of plot beats and characters to compare in detail.

Does the movie ever make an explicit comment about the relative attractiveness of Noah (Joel Kim Booster) and Howie (Bowen Yang)? A major plot point is how Howie has a hard time getting laid, the dialog is about his internal hangups and bad luck. I think Bowen Yang is attractive IRL but Booster is like a perfect 10 body and absolutely in line with Fire Island aesthetics. It seems obvious he could snap his fingers and get laid. I just thought it was interesting that difference was never explicitly called out in the dialog. (It is explicit in the costuming and physical acting.) Or did I miss it?

As for my thoughts... It is so refreshing to watch a movie that's both mainstream and absolutely queer. And that doesn't attempt to pander to straight audiences in some clumsy way. There's no straight gal pal sidekick, no second romance involving a straight couple. A surprising number of my straight friends are liking the movie, so it still connects.

Also this movie made me uncomfortable. I'm a gay man, 50, and pretty well out and proud. But my moments of internalized homophobia still surface. This film triggered some of that in me, particularly the scene where they're sharing out their club drugs. It's just all so messy and, well, very stereotypical. Then the movie shifted to a more serious tone and I enjoyed that more. Also I reflected that of course some of this film is outrageous and exaggerates some gay behaviors. That's fine! It's fiction! Straight rom-coms are over the top all the time and we don't see it as judgement of all of heterosexuality.

The Asian leads and treatment of American racism and classism gave this movie a depth I really appreciated. It seemed very deftly done, like this was a comedic exploration of a very long running conversation. Which perhaps it was, I guess this film comes out of a real friendship between Yang and Booster?

Speaking of which, Joel Kim Booster was amazing in this. I haven't seen anything else with him and now I want to see everything. He has a stand-up special on Netflix, that's next for me. Conrad Ricamora is also new-to-me and also was excellent. Both actors are amazingly fit, which sure helps for all the shirtless scenes. But they also bring a lot of depth to their acting. Of course Bowen Yang and Margaret Cho were terrific, but that I knew to expect. Really what a great cast.

Finally a personal remembrance. When I was young and pretty I spent a footloose summer of 1996 wandering the US. One of my plans was to spend a few days in Fire Island, perhaps trade my youthful charms for some good experiences. Then I talked to gay friends about that and they were all like "oh no, you are nowhere near hot enough for Fire Island." So I was discouraged and didn't go. Anyway ever since the A-gay snob culture of the Fire Island legend has stuck with me and it was a little exorcism to see that all explicated in a film.
posted by Nelson at 9:14 AM on June 25, 2022 [5 favorites]

Is there some detailed and possibly tedious analysis of specific parallels to Pride & Prejudice?

I wish there were a more detailed analysis than Slate's, but it's a start.
Salon's is better at capturing the themes along with the characters.

I think Bowen Yang is attractive IRL but Booster is like a perfect 10 body and absolutely in line with Fire Island aesthetics.

I think Howie says something along those likes to Noah when he mentions that he (Howie) looks like this and Noah looks like that. He says that Noah tries to pretend that doesn't make a difference. It's such a good moment for Howie, and Yang plays is beautifully. It's a nice twist that damayanti notes above, that it's part of what makes Howie a Jane/Charlotte hybrid character. I love that Booster makes that choice with the character.
posted by gladly at 8:38 PM on June 25, 2022 [4 favorites]

I love this movie!

The physical comedy of Will throwing the ice cream cones made me laugh. The scenes that were just music over people talking and laughing were kind of weird but oh well.

I love JKB's comedy and it was really fun to see him be more serious and varied. Same for Bowen Yang - I mostly encounter him through popular SNL sketches and he is always so sassy. He is so sweet in this.

It is definitely up there with my favorite versions of Austen's work!

It seems like when people adapt Regency and try to be inclusive it's always focused on a white couple* but then they let some side characters be non-white to show how progressive they are. And I think that's very boring and annoying. Black people or Asian people in old timey movies can be main characters! So I was also glad that this wasn't that. Obviously it wouldn't be because Joel Kim Booster made it.

*notable exception of Bride and Prejudice
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:46 PM on June 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

Another part I thought was done really well when they are talking/arguing about a story and Noah says "so let me win!" and Will immediately says "ok, you win" - obviously an adaptation of Elizabeth saying something self-deprecating about her piano playing and how she should practice more, and Darcy saying that anyone who heard her wouldn't fault how she spent her time, or something like that. I always liked that part of the book and I liked how they used it in this movie.
posted by Emmy Rae at 2:09 PM on June 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

To my question Does the movie ever make an explicit comment about the relative attractiveness of Noah (Joel Kim Booster) and Howie (Bowen Yang)?

Yes, but it's slightly oblique language. Joel Kim Booster did an interview on Fresh Air last week and they talk about this scene that's about an hour into the movie, I think the one gladly refers to above. Here's the transcript of the clip
BOOSTER: (As Noah) There are plenty of other guys.

BOWEN YANG: (As Howie) For you.

BOOSTER: (As Noah) For you, too.

YANG: (As Howie) No, stop it. Stop talking about this like we're the same.

BOOSTER: (As Noah) But we are. You and me...

YANG: (As Howie) No, stop. You want to feel so good so badly that you did all this. And now you want me to feel good, too, because you - I don't know, you feel guilty. Stop pretending like you don't understand how the world works.

BOOSTER: (As Noah) That's really unfair.
There's never any explicit words about physical characteristics. But it's pretty clear in the movie: when Howie says "you did all this" he gestures at Noah's body. Also the whole vibe makes it clear they're talking about Noah's physical attractiveness.

In the Fresh Air interview the actor Booster himself reiterates this theme, talking about "I am still looking the way I do, coming from a place of relative privilege within this community, in a community that places a high premium on six-packs, you know?"

I'm obsessing about this detail because I think it's really interesting. A lesser rom com would have Howie being the plain-faced girl, the one with "a good personality" but has dingy brown bangs and wears glasses and the can't get the boy. It would buy into the hierarchy of beauty and reinforce it.

But Fire Island doesn't do that. They manage to both acknowledge the difference in physical appearance between the two without quite buying into any sense that it should matter in a just world. Also without shaming Howie's appearance. It's quite delicate, and sweet, and feels like a real moment both for the characters and the actors.
posted by Nelson at 6:00 PM on July 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Absolutely loved this movie! Will definitely be watching Joel Kim Booster’s special next.
posted by ellieBOA at 8:32 AM on September 11, 2022

Just watched this and it's a lovely movie for a cozy night in. Very funny and sweet considering the quantities of drugs and butts shown. I think its a great modernisation of the first rom-com, Pride and Prejudice. A dance showing that there is chemistry between the two, the couple telling each other harsh but true things, an emergency giving a chance to see the best of each other. But it didn't stick to the original plot points just for the sake of it, only the parts which matter.

I liked the way that Howie (as a Jane-style character) not wanting to just fuck randoms is presented as a healthy boundary for him to have, and yet not a judgement on other characters who do. And how Noah, our Lizzie-style character, isn't interested in what society at large says he should want in the form of a heteronormative relationship. He's looking for something outside the boundaries of what is currently acceptable.

The part where Howie and Noah are in conflict that people have already discussed here was mentioned in interviews as Howie being a bit like Charlotte Lucas - feeling on-the-shelf because they don't match the beauty standards of their culture, even though they are both funny and smart and kind. But I think Noah also takes on some Charlotte qualities, in that he's willing to do what it takes (i.e. work out, follow fashion, etc) to get what he wants. And like the original book and the 2005 Keira Knightly film, there's a lot of sympathy here for both sides of Charlotte's dilemma. When you're a minoritised position in society, there's no right answer to how to manage the binds you're in, there's just making decisions you hope you can live with.
posted by harriet vane at 4:48 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]

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