Fire Island, the review: when Jane Austen goes gay

Fire Island: A picture from the film

There is an unwritten but evident rule within the language of cinema: there is no Jane Austen novel that cannot be transposed to the big screen. And again, the origin of every romantic comedy finds its roots in a novel by this prolific writer whose most famous works, Pride and Prejudice, Reason and Sentiment and Emma, ​​have already been the subject of adaptations, quotes, tributes and numerous reinterpretations. in a modern way. As much as Austen’s writing is malleable and adaptable in every sauce, tracing without fleshing out a story risks losing hits. There Fire Island reviewmodern Pride and Prejudice in a gay version, on Disney + Star, is the perfect film to analyze what always works in the Austenian epic and what instead needs an extra effort.

Those who easily navigate the nineteenth-century universe to which we refer, will have no difficulty in placing the references in this story. The protagonists are mainly Noah and Howie, equivalent to the Bennett sisters in the novel as fraternal friends since the times when both were discriminated against or judged according to the harsh rules of ethnicity, in their case, the Asian one. The friendship that binds the two has not been scratched over the years by the fact that their paths have separated, by city. Noah (Joel Kim Booster) lives the New York gay scene while Howie (Bowen Yang) has remained in San Francisco where one can still remain naive and escape the trenches of incessant dating. Every year, they reunite on the journey to a summer gay mecca, Fire Island, where they spend, together with a group of family-friends, a week at the home of a lesbian friend, Erin (Margaret Cho), a bit of everyone’s adoptive mother. . The mission of the holiday will be for Howie to let go and find someone to have a good time with and for Noah to put aside his tireless dance from man to man to devote himself to his friend’s goal.

The structure of the film, written, produced and interpreted by Joel Kim Booster, follows the narrative certainties of the novel and a temporal scan divided by the days of the week that makes it easy to follow in its 100 minutes. This romantic comedy loses power along the way due to Ahn and Booster’s desire to strike, without sinking, also unresolved issues on inclusion, discrimination by body, origins, ethnicities also present in the lgbtq + community and at the same time reaching a wider audience. vast with explanations and contextualizations that lengthen the broth. To put it in a nutshell, it should be remembered that the particular can become universal and one should not force one’s hand. Fire Island is a film about the importance of friendship and families by choice and not by blood and this must remain.

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Jane Austen is not enough

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Fire Island: a scene from the film

It is impossible to escape the Austenian reference in Fire Island. Noah disturbs the writer from the very first frames, defines her as a queen but discredits her ideas on wanting to marry as “straight-up nonsense”. It is her voice over as a narrator, like Austen, who introduces the group of friends with whom she is about to start the holiday. Credit must be given to Ahn and Joel Kim Booster for making a very good casting choice for the characters, first of all the Darcy of this queer Pride and Prejudice, Will, a lawyer played by one of the stars of The Perfect Crime, Conrad Ricamora . The latter works chemically very well with Booster’s Noah and makes their attractive-repulsive dance very believable, according to the tradition of the fabulous Jane.

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Fire Island: a sequence

But Jane alone is not enough to guarantee the success of a film, not surprisingly, in our imagination there is much more present Girls in Beverly Hills, a very successful 90s American teenage version of Emma than, for example, Marriages and Prejudices, much more forgettable Bollywood adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with Aishwarya Rai. Fire Island has the advantage of using the cartridges in its possession in its favor thanks to the Austen mix in queer sauce but of dirtying everything with a few too many explanations for a potential straight audience.

Jane Austen, film writer

Britney Spears, Gays in space and the Revenge of the Blondes

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Fire Island: a sequence from the film

The LGBTQ + community has always declared its icons, has venerated and honored them and Andrew Ahn certainly does not shy away from this practice, in this third film of his and chooses, queen among queens, the newly liberated Britney Spears. Thanks to her we enjoy one of the best moments of the film that when she basks, without wanting to meet all the targets, she always hits the mark in her queer world. Thanks to a karaoke and here we enjoy a musical number on the notes of Sometimes, a 1999 song that portrayed a virginal Spears while she asked her love for her to wait with “baby all I need is time“. With the same force and hilarity come the references to an SNL sketch on Gays in Space – Gays in Space and a comparison with Revenge of the Blondes played by another beloved actress, Reese Witherspoon.

Racism, discrimination, toxicity in the LGBTQ + world

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Fire Island: a moment of the film

When we think of the LGBTQ + community in a broad sense, we often make the mistake of imagining it in harmony, superior, thanks to the battles it has had to fight and still fights, to all those ugliness with which, beyond the rainbow circle, you have to deal with. to do in terms of racism, discrimination, bullying. And instead, films like Fire Island, rightly remind us that, country you go, prejudice you find and that human beings have yet to go a long way. There is the Asian community, represented here by a large number of actors and by the director himself, Ahn, strongly subject to generalizations and categorizations.

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Fire Island: A photo from the film

Similarly, even the gaze on the body is often merciless, in certain circles, even toxic, when it enhances beauty according to certain standards and penalizes every other variable. Too bad that Ahn makes a few of these digressions on “higher” themes, worrying more about reaching everyone, not understanding that instead the power of comedy lies precisely in being able to give voice to discomfort but through the filter of lightness.


We conclude the review of Fire Island, confirming that Jane Austen’s novels always adapt perfectly to every reinterpretation, even the modern gay one as in our case. Director Andrew Ahn makes good use of the Pride and Prejudice facility and plays chemistry Elizabeth Bennett-Mr Darcy starring, writer-producer Joel Kim Booster and Rules of the Perfect Crime star Conrad Ricamora. Fire Island, however, perhaps to honor its placement on Disney + Star and the very American Hulu, lacks the anxiety of reaching everyone and lets useless explanations or contextualizations steal time and space for more serious insights into the problems that afflict this society. all and not only that LGBTQ + such as racism, racial discrimination, body shaming.

Because we like it

  • The couple Joel Kim Booster and Conrad Ricamora reproduces the dynamic Elizabeth Bennett – Mr Darcy well
  • Emphasize the value of friendship and families by choice and not by blood.
  • He points the finger, albeit not always effectively, on issues such as racial discrimination, body shaming and prejudice, which also afflict the LGBTQ + community.

What’s wrong

  • It detects the great contradictions and problems that the LGBTQ + world has to counter and resolve but does not sink the knife.
  • It dwells on useless explanations for a straight public imaginary.

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