Fire Island is the most fun you’ll have without ever having to leave your home. With a film that’s as unapologetically bright and entertaining as director Andrew Ahn’s latest, there is no other way to begin your thoughts on this film. In under two hours, Fire Island wears its heart on its sleeve and is the gift that keeps on giving. Inspired by Jane Austen’s literary classic, Pride and Prejudice, this rom-com highlights a week at Fire Island through the lives of a makeshift little family. A family not by blood relation, but through having found one another at the perfect (or most important) time in their particular lives. Beginning with a modern riff on the classic Searchlight Pictures theme is a surefire way to guarantee your audience will have a good time from the second the cinematic experience kicks off. It’s this very dynamic that not only roots the entire film, but allows it to thrive in ways the rom-com genre struggles with occasionally.
Written by Joel Kim Booster, who also stars as the lead of the film, he immediately invigorates his audience with a crucial energy. It’s a palpable one that can be felt throughout Fire Island. Electrifying tensions built via lusty or loving looks, close-knit descriptions of his built-up family unit that clearly resonate beyond screenplay and camera lens, and a clearly earnest adoration for the namesake of the film itself. These core values baked into the backbone of the script allow for Kim Booster and company to flourish on the lovely Fire Island. Even going so far as to include several mini history lessons about the island and what it means to this family and community as a whole, the location is more than just a beautiful place to shoot a film. Fire Island is very much a character in the film, one in which it allows its inhabitants and summer vacation-goers to be as open and free as they desire. Although it also doesn’t hurt that the shooting location itself is, of course, gorgeous.
Whether lit by a glorious sunset on the pier or the hazy strobe lights during a traditional underwear party, both the island and the film itself, thrive when the people on it are enjoying themselves. While the necessary hurdles of any rom-com are present and a bit rocky at times, Kim Booster writes this electrifying summer extravaganza with enough riotous laughs in between to balance the ship. Kim Booster plays Noah, a single New Yorker looking to find anything but a boyfriend on his annual Fire Island trip. Instead, he sets his sights on being the greatest wingman ever for his best friend Howie, played perfectly by Bowen Yang. The two are friends in real life, where Booster has said their relationship was “life-changing”. This chemistry is most certainly felt on-screen, and it’s what allows not just the whiplash comedic timing to prosper, but also the more vulnerable moments between the two. Vulnerability plays a massive role in how Noah and Howie both carry themselves in the film, and their approaches to handling the dual-sided blade that it can be differ drastically.
Whereas Noah is content hooking up with anyone there is a mutual attraction with, Howie is the more reserved of the two, looking for something a bit more committed. How the two view validation from external sources outside of their group becomes pivotal in allowing the friends to understand one another better. Their internal thoughts battle between being content yet yearning for something more, whether it be subconscious or out in the open. And while Fire Island as a whole operates on a very intimate level with its two main characters, Kim Booster is also able to paint a vivid portrait of modern romance in the LGBTQ community; A film as beautifully open and honest as this should be applauded and celebrated.
At the end of the day, Fire Island will leave you wanting more – in the best way possible. The biggest complaint one could have is that we don’t get to spend every summer with this lovable family on Fire Island. The group dynamic works exceptionally well, and it’s unrestrained fun the entire time. Originally planned as a series on Quibi before being redeveloped into a film, one could hope this wouldn’t be the last we see of these characters. Although if it is, the disco-fueled, sunset bathed finale is a lovely send-off to a deeply fun film. Because at the end of the day, Fire Island isn’t concerned with anything other than being its truest self.
Searchlight Pictures’ FIRE ISLAND will stream exclusively on Hulu in the United States on Friday, June 3rd, 2022.