Fire Island (2022) Movie Review – Raunchier than Jane Austen’s classic work of fiction

Raunchier than Jane Austen’s classic work of fiction

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every so often a filmmaker should try to bring Jane Austen’s age-old classic Pride and Prejudice to the big or the small screen.

Over the years, we have had direct adaptions of the author’s work, with the likes of Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice in 2005. And we have had movies that are loose adaptations of Austen’s novel, such as Bridget Jones’ Diary, Bride and Prejudice, and the unlikeliest of them all, the rom-com-horror piece that was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

In terms of that last one, Jane Austen must surely be turning in her grave or bursting her way through it now to chomp on the heads of whichever studio execs commissioned that one!

With Fire Island, we have another thinly-disguised revamp of Austen’s work but there are times when you will be hard pushed to notice the similarities. I don’t remember Elizabeth Bennett journeying to a faraway island for a week of sun, sand, and sex, and I certainly don’t remember her turning the lights off in her parlour room to have an anonymous sexual encounter.

That’s what we get in director Andrew Ahn’s version of the oft-told story, this time with a focus on Noah (Joel Kim Booster) and his pursuit of sexual pleasure when he and his friends visit Fire Island, the “gay Disney World” where people certainly don’t walk around in corsets or buttoned-down blouses.

At heart, this is as much a buddy comedy about a gay group of Asian-American men as it is a story of love between Noah and Will (Conrad Ricamora), this version’s take on the respectable Mr Darcy. It casts a scathing eye over the prejudice of others too, especially in the scenes where Noah and his friends are patronised for their looks and cultural ideals by some of the shallower individuals they meet at parties.

The movie also gives an insight into the gay dating scene where casual sex is often seen as more important than finding a lifelong partner to settle down with. This isn’t to say Noah and his repressed best friend Howie get their kit off every ten minutes or so but it’s clear that they are both in need of fun in their lives as their week-long retreat to Fire Island is their way of letting off steam away from the pressures and challenges they face back at home.

As enjoyable as the movie is, it would have worked better without being a Jane Austen adaptation. With scenes of characters taking MDMA and having underwear parties, it’s obviously far removed from the author’s novel, but it still tries to tie in the romantic angle that was present in that work of fiction. As we have seen multiple iterations of Mr Darcy over the years and the stubborn individuals who have fallen in love with him, we know exactly how the romantic subplot of this story is going to go.

Fire Island is an often hilarious movie with pointed observations about race and sexuality but when it tries to echo Austen’s novel, the plotting starts to become obvious and heavy-handed. This is a shame as the rest of the movie is good, freewheeling fun with characters that don’t deserve to be hampered by the conventions of stories past.

There are far more interesting subplots than Noah’s hesitant relationship with Will. The moments when Noah tries to help Howie lose his virginity are quite effective, for example, as Howie clearly has hang-ups about his looks and Asian identity, two factors that have affected his self-confidence in matters relating to sex.

Then there’s the fact that the lads discover this will likely be their last time together on the island. There is a sense of poignancy as they come to terms with the passing of time and this threat to their friendship, and more time exploring their feelings on this would have been more interesting than another scene featuring a misunderstanding between Noah and Will.

These criticisms aside, this is still a good movie about friendship and queer culture, and despite the occasional sideline into such serious themes as toxic masculinity and racism, it still manages to be a breezy summer flick that people of all sexual persuasions should enjoy.

There are comic scenes aplenty with some quippy one-liners, and it’s great to see a mainstream movie place its focus on gay and Asian characters in such an entertaining but respectful way. I had a lot of fun with this, despite the Austen-isms and rom-com staples that sometimes caused a groan, and from what can be seen online, it’s gained a lot of traction with other people too.

If you’re looking for another movie about the Asian-American experience, I wholeheartedly recommend director Ahn’s Driveways, which was a quieter, more reflective piece of work. I recommend Spa Night too, which was another attempt by Ahn to explore both Asian and gay themes within its setup.

Fire Island might be poles apart from those movies in terms of its raunchiness and comedy appeal but it still manages to get its points across, even when the actors are skimpily dressed and hornier than rabbits on a breeding farm!


Read More: Fire Island Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 7.5/10

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