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Fire Island: Jane Austen gets a fun twist in smart rom-com

By Diana Beechener

It’s a universally accepted truth that every decade needs one pride and prejudice Adjustment. This time, Jane Austen’s tale of false assumptions, class struggles and romantic entanglements is given a modern twist with a winning LGBTQ+ theme.

Instead of sisters fire island tells the story of five best friends who travel to an island every year for a week of debauchery and friendship. Noah (Joel Kim Booster: Unplug) is the group’s fiercely independent leader who thinks he knows what’s best for everyone. This summer’s “project” is to find love with his best friend Howie (Bowen Yang: The Lost City), who has never had a meaningful relationship. Noah doesn’t believe in relationships, but makes it his mission to find Howie a summer romance.

At first, Noah’s quest seems fairly simple. Howie Meets Dreamy Charlie (James Sully: You), and the couple is immediately smitten. But while Howie and Charlie enjoy flirting, their friend groups are incompatible. Charlie runs into a bunch of snobs who see Noah and his friends as “trash.” Noah is particularly annoyed with Charlie’s best friend Will (Conrad Ricamora: the inhabitant), who seems to find Noah perversely fascinating.

Can the two groups learn to get along? Or will there be friction when they get together?

Hulu kicks off Pride Month with this hilarious adaptation of pride and prejudice that brings lots of laughs and a few touching moments. Booster, who wrote the screenplay, manages to update Austen’s view of class and love with themes dealing with struggles in the gay community. Booster tackles rainbow capitalism, racial disparity, and monogamy in one movie without ever feeling like a lecture.

Director Andrew Ahn (driveways) deftly navigates through several jagged tonal shifts. The film moves easily from raunchy comedy to social studies to romance without ever stretching. Ahn also nails the romantic comedy beats beautifully, keeping the excitement and laughter constant throughout.

Part of the strength of fire island is how open he is about issues that the general public might find uncomfortable. Seeing that Charlie’s rich white friends are looking down on him, Noah resents the fact that they are buying up the island and turning what was once a safe haven for persecuted people into a luxurious vacation destination. By pricing out people like Noah and his friends, they upgrade the island and take away from the community a space that was once safe and sacred.

but fire island is not just class and race commentary, at the heart of the story are several beautiful relationships. While the romances are nice, the real meat of the story is Howie and Noah’s friendship. Yang and Booster have excellent comedic chemistry, and their antics are easily the most entertaining part of the film. They’re both devoted to each other’s happiness, but don’t want to acknowledge the differences between them. Yet even after a fight or a heartbreak, they remain steadfast in their affection.

Even though fire island could delve deeper into its themes, especially with a character who agrees to play fast and loose, the light-hearted approach makes the film more accessible to those who may not be as familiar with the modern issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. Like Austen himself, Ahn and Booster choose to broach heavy issues lightly while keeping the plot flowing. It’s a smart move, and one that makes fire island welcome to all.

If you’re looking for a fun adaptation of an Austen classic, or just want a good rom-com with a promising new voice, give it a go fire island one try.

fire island can be streamed on Hulu.

Good Rom-Com *R* 105 Min.

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