#REVIEW: “FIRE ISLAND”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
I knew within the first five seconds, when the Cast performs (off-key) the famous Fox Searchlight movie theme, that I would be in for a treat watching FIRE ISLAND. I was wrong; it was not a treat – it was a mouth-watering, sumptuous buffet table ladened with tantalizing gourmet offerings that makes one squeal with delight and awe. Making no pretense of its inspiration (Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”), this Movie seamlessly incorporates the Book’s storyline with a an inclusive sensibility and a biting, naughty sense of humour.
After waking-up late and shooing away a One Night Stand who stayed overnight, commitment-phobe Noah (Joel Kim Booster, who also wrote the Screenplay) meets his four besties at a dock to await the ferry taking them all to the notorious Fire Island which they can only afford to go to as they stay with Erin (Margaret Cho), a wise and worldly lesbian who bought the house after winning a lawsuit. Noah is particularly happy to reconnect with Howie (Bowen Yang), who now lives in San Francisco. Unlike the promiscuous Noah, Howie wants to experience the perfect cinematic Rom-Com life, which is anathema to Noah, so he proposes that he will abstain from any sexual activity on the Island until Howie gets laid. Two flies immediately get mired in the ointment as soon as the five guys arrive at Erin’s: first being that she will have to sell the house as she can no longer afford it. Secondly, Howie meets Charlie (James Scully) at a bar and envisions the picket fence house he’ll be in soon, despite the scowls from Charlie’s friends which include Will (Conrad Ricamora). The class differences, exemplified in Austen’s novel, rears its ugly head. Charlie’s cohorts are all rich, buff and condescending; Noah’s friends are poor, not gym bunnies and tend towards the outrageous.
Will Howie and Charlie hook up and find love ever after?
Will Noah hook-up with the hunky Dex (Zane Phillips) that he met at the grocery store or will the seriously intense continual eye contact with Will come to fruition?
These, and so much more, will be revealed as FIRE ISLAND unfolds!
Oh, FIRE ISLAND, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
The performances by every individual in the Cast, regardless of the screentime they have, cannot be faulted. Joel Kim Booster is as captivating a performer as he is a Screenwriter. He nails every emotion his character deals with aplomb and ease. He makes you root for Noah even when he is not at his best. We all know that Emmy-nominated Bowen Yang has superior comedic chops; in this Movie, he shows he is also flawless in more dramatic scenes. His performance here is indelible. No one plays Margaret Cho better than Margaret Cho. Whereas she steals every scene she is in, she never overwhelms her Co-stars with her bold persona and graciously elevates those around her. I’ve never liked her more than here – she rocks! As Will, Conrad Ricamora ( from the late, lamented “How to Get Away with Murder” and currently in “The Resident”) tackles his complex role with assurance. His shifts from annoyance, vulnerability and acceptance are dazzling. James Scully brings a Hugh Grant vibe to the role of Charlie with confidence. As part of Noah’s entourage, in the role of Luke, Matt Rogers (so great in HBO’s “I Love That For You”) is effortlessly and hypnotically funny, Tomas Matos (Keegan) brings outrageous behaviours and comments to heights not seen since Albin in “La Cage Aux Folles”, and as Max, Torian Miller (one of the geniuses behind the scenes on TV’s latest hit, “Abbott Elementary”) embodies the paranoid buzzkill. If you saw the Musical “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” years ago, the role of Felicia was played by Nick Adams, so you only imagine the kinetic energy he brings to the role of Cooper, one of Charlie’s cohorts moving to L.A. and thinking that Will might make a great “Starter Boyfriend.” Zane Phillips straddles the role of Dex with dangerous sex appeal.
The Script is faultless in its honesty and humour. The Movie does not shy away in the few sexually explicit scenes, which I totally appreciated as the camera does not discretely zoom towards an open window with curtains bellowing. The Comedy itself is fast, furious, relentless, movies-oriented (“He thinks it was Lindsey Graham in The Parent Trap”), clever, bitchy (“He’s not hot enough to be that annoying”) and introspective and genuine as well. Director Andrew Ahn’s visual styles harkens to paintings by David Hockney alongside powerful emotional intimacies. Whereas FIRE ISLAND’s targeted audience is unabashedly a gay one, I’d like to believe it will appeal to all.
For the second time this year, I can’t think of anything I’d change after watching a movie and once FIRE ISLAND streams on Disney+ starting June 7, 2022, I have a new “go-to” movie to lift up my spirit when feeling down.