Catch the Ferry! Early Reviews of 'Fire Island' Are Raves

Monday May 30, 2022
Originally published on May 23, 2022

Joel Kim Booster in "Fire Island"
Joel Kim Booster in "Fire Island"  

The first reviews are out on "Fire Island," one of the most anticipated LGBTQ films of the year. And the word is that this Jane Austen-inspired romantic comedy, directed by Andrew Ahn ("Spa Night"), will be well worth a look when it streams on Hulu on June 3. On June 2, it premieres at NewFest Pride in New York City.

The film is a contemporary adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" set on the island by comic Joel Kim Booster, who co-stars. It centers on a group of friends who head to Fire Island every summer to stay at a home owned by an older, lesbian friend (played by Margaret Cho.) But her financial difficulties may mean that this is the last summer the friends can hang there. Key members of the group include Noah (Booster, who narrates) and bestie Howie ("Saturday Night Live" breakout Bowen Yang). Joining them in the cast is Conrad Ricamora, James Scully, Matt Rogers, Tomás Matos, Torian Miller, Nick Adams, and Zane Phillips.

Here are a sample of the reviews:

David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter writes: "The gold standard for contemporary riffs on Jane Austen remains Amy Heckerling's supremely witty 'Clueless.' But 'Fire Island," Andrew Ahn's queer spin on "Pride and Prejudice," is a delightful addition that straddles the divide between an early 19th century comedy of manners and a frothy modern-day rom-com with disarming sweetness... (the film) brings surprising heart and even sensitivity to its affectionate observation of gay men of color navigating relationships."

Rooney concludes: "In terms of gay destinations, I'll confess I go for the relatively mellow vibe of Provincetown over the circuit-party hedonism of Fire Island. But even if the glossily rendered setting is not your scene, there's a lot to like here. Charlie, the pretty white guy, is not the prize but instead, after a bunch of dumb missteps, has to prove he's worthy of Howie's affections. That in itself feels like a plus in a pleasurable mainstream entertainment that puts queer characters of color first — just as Jane Austen was among the earliest female writers to foreground strong women characters. Fire Island gets points for representation and has a good time waving the flag."

Variety's Peter Dubruge opens by describing typical memes in gay films. "So right off the bat, there's something fresh about 'Fire Island,' a saucy queer ensemble comedy from comedian-cum-screenwriter Joel Kim Booster about looking for Mr. Right in the spot where gay men flee to find no-strings fun, sun and sex.

"Taking a page from 'Clueless,' Booster had the bright idea to update a key Austen classic, putting the gay Asian pride in 'Pride and Prejudice' — where nothing of the sort ever existed before — with the help of 'Spa Night' director Andrew Ahn. By setting his unapologetically queer take on the eponymous gay enclave, he gives audiences who've never been there a taste of a place where LGBT folks aren't at the mercy of the majority; they are the majority. As for those who have experience with Fire Island, well, Booster serves up a fantasy version of a week's vacation in paradise, casting Margaret Cho as house mother...

"The movie's strength comes in acknowledging that there's room for all kinds of people on Fire Island. There are plenty of gay folks who aren't comfortable at gay clubs, and to them, I always say: "You assume that everyone goes out looking for the same thing, but if you're here and you don't relate, there are sure to be others who feel the way you do." But you can't force them to have fun, the way Noah wants to do with Howie. Yang may be the MVP in this ensemble, though the cast is terrific across the board. Cho's as irreverent as you want her to be, while doubling as the glue that holds the group together (there's an odd subplot about her character having to sell the house, which complicates potential sequel plans)."

At The Wrap, Alonso Duralde writes: "Jane Austen is cited just seconds into 'Fire Island" — and a character later quotes everyone's favorite 'Emma' adaptation, "Clueless' — and this sparkling tale of star-crossed love affairs on a beach vacation treats "romantic" and "comedy" with equal importance. The fact that its entanglements, misunderstandings, and reconciliations occur among an almost entirely all-male cast serves merely to put a new meaning to the 'Pride' in 'Pride and Prejudice.'...

"LGBTQ representation in studio films (even studio indie-shingle films that get kicked to streaming) still happens rarely enough to be cause for celebration, and Ahn and Booster refuse to dilute the material for a mainstream audience; if straight viewers don't get the jokes about PrEP or Cherry Jones, or they object to turning fellatio into physical comedy, that's their own problem. Even with its raunchier aspects, the film's devotion to plotting the course of true love would probably meet with Miss Austen's approval."

At the website IGN, Siddhant Adlakha begins with: "Filmmaker Andrew Ahn is one of America's underrated gems. His debut feature, 'Spa Night,' was a harrowing indie about a closeted Korean American teen, and the shattered dreams of his immigrant parents. Its indie follow-up, 'Driveways,' told a gentle story of loss and regret, and featured a young gay boy. His latest, the Searchlight-produced 'Fire Island,' also features prominent gay Asian characters, but is an enormous swing in the opposite direction: it's a riotous studio comedy about a group of boisterous gay men on a week-long vacation, and it also happens to be an adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice.' Despite its premise differing wildly from that classic novel, it goes above and beyond as a modern retelling, resulting in not only one of the funniest, most complete pieces of entertainment this year, but one of the best Jane Austen movies in a generation."

Adlakha concludes his rave with: "Indie director Andrew Ahn creates a mainstream queer classic with the romcom 'Fire Island,' his inventive modern adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice.' Following a group of gay friends on a wild vacation, it features some of the funniest and most tension-filled scenes in any movie this year. As complete as any piece of entertainment can be."

At Digital Spy, Gabriella Geisinger, joins in praising the film. "Booster knows better than to try and hit — plot point for plot point — the moments from Pride and Prejudice we have all come to know so well (and have been GIF-ified to death, not that we don't love staring at a rain-soaked Matthew McFadyen confessing his love). Instead, he takes the things that still impact us to this day and lets his new imagined characters flourish with them...

"'Fire Island' takes a nonjudgemental look at the hierarchy that exists within the queer world — from race to class to body type. Even the dynamic between cis gay men and lesbians is explored thanks to a supporting turn by Margaret Cho as the mother hen (who, yes, gets to have her own spotlight moment too)...

"It is a film miraculously devoid of those kinds of narrative short-cuts (or maybe not so miraculously: as with any near-perfect thing, a lot of work went in to making it seem effortless)...
"But what makes it feel deep and rich is the detail that goes into each character. They come alive, they feel like you and me, and that is what makes each of their moments of joy and despair pull hard at your heart."