"Fire Island": a gay romantic comedy based loosely on Jane Austen

OK, they say that the romantic gay comedy Fire Island is formulated from Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice) by screenwriter Joel Kim Booster, who adapted the novel and plays the protagonist, of sorts, Noah (direction by Andrew Ahn). 

As the movie opens, he and Howie (Bowen Yang) speculate on what they want (like to start the Harmon Story Circle) as they arrive on a summer Friday at Fire Island Pines. Pretty soon we are introduced to the den mother for the boys, the lesbian played by Margaret Cho. Slowly, the other characters, which include black and particularly white men appear. (Noah seems solo as a protagonist. The screenwriting community today -- especially Michael Hauge and Tyler Mowery -- is debating whether it's proper for a good movie script to have two protagonists. Hauge says it's OK with romantic comedies. Mowery says, with multiple superhero comic movies, maybe. Well, 'Eternals', not just 'Batman and Superman") .

Yes, the movie appears 'prepared to explore interracial sexual attraction and prejudices against such'. The white guys sort of become the antagonists, in a way. The most cis-male of all of them, a blond Luke (Matt Rogers) becomes the troublemaker with his sexual aggression later. But there is a lawyer (made to seem Jewish) Will (Conrad Ricamora) who may turn out to be Noah’s love or his ultimate enemy. But at one point Noah scorns Will for thinking his wealth allows him to feel scorn for 'ordinary' gays.

There is a sequence where Luke forces himself on someone and makes and circulates a dirty cell video. Will, in one confrontation late in the film, lectures him on the legal risks of his 'revenge porn', which he says could cause him to be labeled a sex offender in New York State. 

The film does present the range of personalities within the male gay community, with the very cis and masculine (which tends to be more likely with white men, in the film, and people may be sensitive about this.  Others are gentler, and may move a little more toward non-binary.

There is an underwear party at the Ice Palace, which I believe is actually in Cherry Grove.  There is a scene in the 'woods' between the Pines and Grove, marked by a wild deer (a tribute to Yanthimos, maybe) who seems to enjoy the company. What do animals think of us?

Today's Grove has lots of boardwalk trails among expensive vacation homes, not all of them (just the most expensive) on the actual shore. The film showed a few shots of these trails.

When I lived in NYC 1974-1978, I would take the LIRR to Sayville, and a ferry to the Pines first, and walk the beach, about 3/4 mile to the Grove.  Sometimes there would be nude sand sculpture “on the beach” (pun on Nevil Shute intended).  On Pride 50 weekend in 2019, I took the ferry to the Grove directly instead for a Saturday.

I think Michael Donnelly has spoken about the film on Twitter, but last August when one of the hurricanes threatened Long Isand, he (from his Hells Kitchen perch) tweeted -y’all- to come back to the city and take the storm seriously, as Fire Island is a barrier island that protects the main shore from damage.  'We won’t bite', he tweeted.  Look at Donnelly's work on Covid data on Medium.

The film starts online viewing today on Hulu.  The old Fox Searchlight musical trademark is actually sung!

I recall another film from 2018, Cherry Grove Stories, a documentary by Michael Fisher.

The New York Historical Society presents a lecture Curator Confidential: Safe/Haven: Gay Life in 1950s Cherry Grove (54 min) during Pride Week in NYC in 2021.

I remember a particular friend who moved to San Francisco in October 1978, during the World Series, who commented that he missed the hot summers in the East and the four season climate of gay New York.

(Posted: Friday, June 3, 2022 at 4 PM EDT by John W. Boushka)