Monday, June 20, 2022

Fire Island

Movie Name:
Fire Island
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Andrew Ahn 
Starring: Joel Kim Booster, Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricamora, James Scully, Matt Rogers, Tomas Matos, Margaret Cho, Torian Miller, Nick Adams, Zane Phillips, Michael Graceffa
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review
Another streaming platform also releasing original films is Hulu, and this time around they're releasing a Searchlight Pictures film (previously known as Fox Searchlight, which produced and released films such as Guillermo Del Toro's "The Shape of Water" and Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton's "Little Miss Sunshine"). The film follows the story of a group of gay friends who meet on a yearly basis, to spend a brief week together on Fire Island. The story focuses in particular on two of those friends, Noah and Howie, who have been close for quite some time, though now they see each other much less since Howie moved to the West Coast to work on a startup, while Noah has stayed in New York. Noah has long been comfortable with having multiple flings with men, whereas Howie has had his fair amount of challenges in connecting with men. Noah decides to be a wingman for Howie, and make sure he has an exciting vacation. Things get to an auspicious start when Howie meets Charlie, a sweet man who has recently broken up with his boyfriend. Things also quickly shape up for Noah, who has an immediate attraction to one of Charlie's friends, the quiet Will, though his assumptions quickly create some friction between the both of them. As they navigate the niceties of living in that bubble, they soon realize this may be the last Summer they all have together.
Andrew Ahn made a name for himself with the features "Spa Night" and "Driveways", both of which were met with positive critical responses. This new feature of his is based on a script by Joel Kim Booster, who is also one of the lead actors in the ensemble (he plays the somewhat jaded and cynical Noah and he also has previously written for TV Shows, including the hilarious "The Other Two"). The film, unlike for instance Norman René's "Longtime Companion", which also took place in Fire Island, and also with a group of gay friends, opts to be much more lighter in tone, though with some interesting observations as to what happens in the gay universe (or at least in that particular microcosms, the film is also inspired by Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"). The director manages to create a believable sense of camaraderie between the group of characters, even if at times some of those characters definitely feel like they're inhabiting different realities (namely the over the top friends who come across as very roughly drawn caricatures). There are indeed interesting observations in terms of the power dynamics that are established within this bubble of an existence, and the film also briefly illustrates some of the current trends that are front and center within the gay community, but for the most part, the characters themselves, while sufficiently engaging, are very thinly defined and aren't given much in terms of motivation. The film needed a stronger point of view in terms of where these characters are actually going, and also pose some questions in terms of what makes that caste system be what it is in that island (and in the gay world itself). What is left is indeed watchable and entertaining, but also fairly superficial. The cast manages to be quite engaging, with particular emphasis going to Bowen Yang, while the production team is equally strong, namely featuring the beautiful cinematography from Felipe Vara de Rey. Worth watching.