‘Fire Island’ Is the Laugh-Out-Loud, Actually Romantic Gay Rom-Com We Deserve This Pride Month

Four words: gay Pride and Prejudice. That was how one of 2022's most highly-anticipated films, Fire Island, was teased prior to its release, so it's no wonder that we've been counting down the days to see this romantic comedy starring Saturday Night Live's Bowen Yang and Comedy Central Stand-Up's Joel Kim Booster.

It was after taking a trip to the historically gay vacation destination, Fire Island Pines, and reading a copy of Austen's famous novel of manners that Booster decided to draft the story for this film, one of a string of new releases that mark a shift in the world of rom-coms. While the rom-com genre has typically been dominated by straight storytelling, and while LGBTQ+ films in general have often fallen prey to tragic endings, clichéd coming-out stories or white-dominated casts, Booster and the rest of the queer creators behind the film, including director Andrew Ahn (Driveways), seemingly decided to smash these tired tropes. And boy do they succeed.

Fire Island follows a group of friends who make their annual trip to the titular coastal town, where they plan to spend their time drinking, partying and hooking up with fellow vacationers. However, things get complicated when the group finds themselves mixed up with a pack of wealthy, pretentious visitors, and Yang and Booster's characters discover that two of the strangers might be much sweeter than they first thought.

In the end, the Hulu and Searchlight Pictures film turns out to be a riotous, romantic ride that feels fully authentic to queer experiences, while highlighting narratives that have often been ignored in Hollywood. Keep scrolling to find out why Fire Island is one of the best LGBTQ+ films to come out in recent memory.

While Fire Island was billed as a gay reimagining of Pride and Prejudice, some viewers may feel that this movie is far removed from Austen's original work...but it seems as if that's the point. Booster's screenplay certainly pays homage to the universal themes of Austen's classic, but in truth, it feels like he wants to show how queer storytelling can overlap, while also carving out its own space. In the first five minutes, there's a slight fear that Fire Island is going to cater to straight viewers by being a “palatable” guide to gay life. But once the characters and their lives are introduced, the movie quickly reveals itself to be a movie made by queer people for queer people.

Our winning ensemble—which in addition to Booster and Yang includes Torian Miller, Matt Rogers, Tomás Matos and Margaret Cho—talk about everything from jokingly wanting a hot tub to prevent STDs to the prevalence of fatphobia, femmephobia and racism in the queer community. One of the best aspects of Fire Island is the way that it imbues social commentary into its humor, and the laughs are consistent throughout, even with spaces of more emotional moments.

Not to mention, some of the funniest scenes feel natural and totally realistic. In one moment, the group watches the sunset and counts down the seconds until the sun drops below the horizon. However, when they get the timing wrong, they have to keep adding time until the sun eventually drops. In another scene, the group is playing a game of Heads Up! and two characters get mad when the person guessing can't figure out that they're imitating Marisa Tomei from My Cousin Vinny. Both of these instances are quick, but they resonate because they feel like moments you could have actually lived with your friends or chosen family.

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Jeong Park/Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios

Besides its side-splitting humor, Fire Island also presents stories that are rarely highlighted in Hollywood. With two Asian men leading the cast, it's refreshing to see a queer film that's not led by white people. Meanwhile, recent critically-adored films like Love, Simon and The Half of It have focused on queer coming-of-age stories. But the focus is rarely ever put on anyone above the age of 25. In one moment, when Yang's character discusses the struggle of being in his 30s and never having had a real boyfriend, this feels monumental. It is something that many people can probably relate to (who are not just gay), and it's something that's rare in most romance films, especially LGBTQ+ ones.

And if the humor and fresh narratives aren't enough, Fire Island is certainly not lacking in romance. When Booster's character develops a tense back-and-forth with an uptight lawyer (played by How to Get Away with Murder's Conrad Ricamora) their chemistry is undeniable, and there are a few steamy scenes (including one mud-soaked moment in the woods) that could give recent burners like Bridgerton a run for their money. But once again, Fire Island does not get caught up in tropes, and each character in this film searches for their own form of love (be that marriage, long-term relationships or casual hookups), and they're all accepted for it.

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Jeong Park/Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios

If there were any complaint related to the film, it's that some of the incredibly-talented ensemble don't get enough room to shine, like Cho in her wild, mom-like character, or Miller as the comically anxious “responsible” one. Yet, with the film already clocking in at 105 minutes, it makes sense why the creators didn't want it to drag on. And while there are too many funny performances to give them all their due time, each actor still gives it their all when they're at the center.

In the end, Fire Island feels like a shift, a change, a revolution. It feels honest and genuine without conforming to any standards. It's funny without trying too hard and it's romantic enough to hold its own against the rom-com classics of the past. And as we kick off this year's Pride month, this movie feels like the perfect celebratory way to do it.

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Jeong Park/Searchlight Pictures/20th Century Studios

Purewow Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5 Stars

Fire Island is at once funny, emotional, raunchy and zany, just as you'd expect any real trip to Fire Island Pines to be. With queer creators behind the scenes and on screen, it's no wonder that this rom-com succeeds as a powerful addition to a genre that has often ignored gay stories. We have a feeling that Fire Island will be discussed as a landmark release for many years to come.

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Associate Editor, News and Entertainment

Joel is the former Associate Editor for News & Entertainment and has been reporting on all things pop culture for over 5 years. Before working at PureWow, he served as a...