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

By Diana Beechener 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every decade needs a Pride and Prejudice adaptation. This time, Jane Austen’s tale of false assumptions, class strife, and romantic entanglements is given a modern varnish with a winning LGBTQ+ theme.  

Instead of sisters, Fire Island tells the story of five best friends who travel together to an island every year for a week of debauchery and bonding. Noah (Joel Kim Booster: Unplugging) is the fiercely independent leader of the group, who thinks he knows what’s best for everyone. This summer’s “project” is finding love for 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 pretty easy. Howie meets dreamy Charlie (James Sully: You), and the pair are immediately smitten. But while Howie and Charlie are happy to flirt, their friend groups aren’t compatible. Charlie runs with a pack of snobs who view Noah and his friends as “trash”. Noah is especially annoyed by Charlie’s best friend Will (Conrad Ricamora: The Resident), who seems to find Noah perversely fascinating.  

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

Hulu kicks off Pride month with this witty adaptation of Pride and Prejudice that brings lots of laughs and a few touching moments. Booster, who wrote the script, manages to update Austen’s look at class and love with subjects that reflect on struggles in the gay community. Booster tackles rainbow capitalism, racial disparities, and monogamy all in one film without ever making it feel like a lecture.  

Director Andrew Ahn (Driveways) deftly navigates through several harsh tonal shifts. The movie easily transitions from raunchy comedy to social study to romance without ever dragging. Ahn also hits the romantic comedy beats beautifully, keeping the tension and the laughs consistent throughout.  

Part of the strength of Fire Island is how frank it is with topics that might make general audiences uncomfortable. Noah can see that Charlie’s rich white friends are looking down at him, and bristles at the fact that they’re buying up the island, turning what used to be a safe haven for persecuted people into a luxury vacation destination. By pricing out people like Noah and his friends, they gentrify the island and take away a space that used to be safe and sacred to the community.  

But Fire Island isn’t all 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 the friendship between Howie and Noah. Yang and Booster have excellent comedic chemistry and their antics are easily the most enjoyable part of the movie. They’re both devoted to each other’s happiness, but don’t want to acknowledge the differences between them. Still, even after a fight or a heartbreak, they are steadfast in their affection.  

Though Fire Island could delve more deeply into its themes, especially with one character who plays fast and loose with consent, the light approach makes the film more accessible for those who might not be as familiar with the modern issues facing the LGBTQ+ community. Like Austen herself, Ahn and Booster choose to touch lightly on heavy topics while keeping the plot moving along. It’s a smart move, and one that makes Fire Island welcoming to all. 

If you’re in the market for a fun adaptation of an Austen classic, or just want a good rom-com from a promising new voice, consider giving Fire Island a try.  

Fire Island is available to stream on Hulu.

Good Rom-com * R * 105 mins.