Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Fire Island, or: Non-Hetero Nonsense

We must be in an alternate universe, as my pick this week is a Jane Austen retelling that I’ve been…looking forward to? Though a lesson for the Blog Collab is that queering a story increases the odds of our approval quite significantly. Either that or adding sharks. While sadly the all-shark adaptation of Pride & Prejudice doesn’t exist (yet), we’ll accept this week’s modern gay version on the blog.

The Film:

Fire Island


Andrew Ahn

The Premise:

While enjoying a vacation on Fire Island, Noah is determined to find an appropriately hot hookup for his best friend, while avoiding the most disagreeable man he’s ever met.

The Ramble:

Good-looking and carefree Noah is a single man most definitely not in search of a wife…though he’s not looking for a boyfriend either. Noah relishes commitment-free hookups, prioritizing above all else his relationship with his found family.

In the P&P tradition, we have along with Noah’s Lizzie, the wildly inappropriate party duo (Luke and Keegan), the weird one (Max), the bff (Howie), and the worrying mama (Mrs. Bennet). The crew is all heading to Fire Island for a week of gay merriment at mama Erin’s vacation home, acquired by luck rather than wealth.

Two men stand facing each other, touching fingers in a friendly gesture.

Unfortunately for the family, Erin reveals that, due to poor investment, she’ll have to sell the house. This will be the last summer for the group to enjoy together on Fire Island, casting a certain gloom over the highly anticipated trip. Howie laments that he’s never had a real boyfriend or been able to find a hookup on the annual trip. Noah, feeling it’s his duty to help Howie make good memories on this last stay together, vows to hold off on his own pursuits until he finds Howie a gorgeous guy.

When Noah’s phone dies a tragic death after falling into a pool, he must face the added challenge of matchmaking for Howie IRL. As luck would have it, Howie notices an attractive stranger checking him out at the first party they attend. The new guy Charlie is a kind-hearted doctor who seems completely perfect…except for those in his friend group. Most irritating among these is the surly Will, our Mr. Darcy (of course).

A man smiles, intrigued, as a friend next to him looks discouraging.

As Howie and the group are invited to posh parties at Charlie’s house, they realize how out of their element they are as penniless gay men of color lacking six-pack abs. The highly protective Will is concerned for his friend Charlie, who can be too willing to trust. Naturally, Will says something rather insulting about Noah, who overhears and is greatly incensed.

After Howie doesn’t return home, Noah excitedly believes his plan has worked…only to discover his bff was in fact a victim of a hangover. While Howie insists that Charlie staying with him all night as he was violently ill is a sign of progress, Noah remains suspicious that Charlie isn’t remotely interested in his pal.

A shirtless man sits across from a man who is reading on a patio.

Thinking quickly to help Howie get closer to the object of his affections, Noah invites Charlie over for dinner at their house, inadvertently inviting all of his friends too. While picking up outrageously overpriced groceries, Noah meets the extremely good-looking Dex. When it seems Will despises Dex and warns Noah away from him, this only further strengthens his resolve to enjoy this new man’s company.

So why does Noah continue to spend the bulk of his vacation time quarreling with Will? Despite his abruptness and failure to understand pop culture references, could there be a depth to Will that Noah has been too…prejudiced to appreciate?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Though I’m not a huge Pride & Prejudice fan, I did get a lot of enjoyment from this retelling. It works as a rom-com and as both a critique and celebration of the gay community. While the script contains 1000% more sex jokes than Austen, the wit and social commentary are completely spot-on for a film inspired by her most famous novel. The ways socioeconomic status, white supremacy, and fitness/diet culture make their way into all elements of life are addressed compellingly in the gay community here.

In addition to the writing, the performances are done well, with actors inclusive of different body types, race & ethnicity, and gender expression. The dynamic between Noah/Howie and Noah/Will are especially believable, and I appreciate that the family relationships are just as important as the romantic stories. I really enjoyed Will’s version of Mr. Darcy–high praise indeed, as I’m usually annoyed by his character (and not in the sexually tense way Lizzie is). It helps that a lot of the film’s approach emphasizes how painfully and comedically awkward the character is, from repeatedly throwing away ice cream cones to preserve his cool to unwillingly entering a dance-off.

Other updates to the story are done creatively; I was wondering what the Dex/Mr. Wickham twist would be, and it wasn’t quite what I expected. This is a rare retelling that brings a lot of originality and fun to a familiar story.

Would my blog wife steal a boat for this one or ruin its party by standing around looking sullen? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Jane Austen Book Club, or: You Don’t Talk About Book Club

Once again, we’re doing what we want on the blog this month.  This time around, we’re heading to California for a comedy of manners with plenty of relationship drama and connections to 19th-century classics of English literature.

The Film:

The Jane Austen Book Club

The Premise:

I sometimes don’t know if you really want me to state the obvious and/or if you don’t 100% understand how film titles usually work.

The Ramble:

In Sacramento, California, a host of seemingly unconnected characters lead rather unglamorous lives encountering everyday annoyances.  Unknowingly, they will all be drawn together by Jane Austen.  Book Club.

They are:

  • Bernadette, founder of the book club and divorcee who has been married 6 times
  • Sylvie, recently separated from her husband after a shocking revelation
  • Jocelyn, Sylvie’s bestie and perpetually single dog breeder
  • Allegra, Sylvie’s daughter and a born risk-taker
  • Prudie (Emily  Blunt), a French teacher feeling bored and dissatisfied with her marriage
  • Grigg, sci-fi nerd and the only male member of the club
Two women sit in a train station, eating ice cream at a counter.
The Ice Cream and Isak Dinesen Club wasn’t quite as catchy.

After Sylvie’s husband discloses an ongoing affair, her friends attempt desperately to cheer her up.  Her daughter Allegra moves back in with her, having recently split up with her girlfriend anyway.  In a stroke of genius, Bernadette proposes a book club to distract Sylvie after encountering a distraught Prudie.  The book club may also help Jocelyn feel better, who recently held a funeral for one of her dogs (in an unexpected connection to last week’s film, Mr. Roosevelt).

By chance, Jocelyn meets Grigg at a conference center and inducts him into the book club.  Jocelyn recommends Austen to Grigg, while Grigg suggests Ursula K. LeGuin (bittersweet as I learned she passed away earlier today just prior to writing this post).

A man and woman gaze longingly at the shelves of a bookstore.

As you have likely guessed, the 6 members of the book club discuss each of Austen’s 6 novels, discovering unexpected parallels between the works of fiction and their own lives.

Jocelyn, who invited Grigg to the book club to set him up with Sylvie, is very clearly the Emma of our film.  She begins to regret pushing Grigg and Sylvie together when she starts to develop feelings for him, but stubbornly carries on.

Sylvie and Allegra end up living their own version of Sense & Sensibility, with Sylvie as the voice of reason and Allegra as the reckless romantic.  Though she tries to move on, Sylvie still loves her husband and finds it difficult to end their marriage.  Meanwhile, Allegra is off skydiving, avoiding commitments, and meeting ladies.

A woman reads aloud from a Jane Austen novel while lying in bed, her teenage daughter next to her.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that it’s more fun to watch adaptations loosely based on Austen novels than to actually read the books.

Prudie’s life ends up very similar to Persuasion when she seems ready to give up on her marriage in favor of a fling with a student who does quite a strong smoldering stare.  Like Anne Elliot, Prudie realizes she does love the man she’s rejected…but is the damage too great for her to repair?

As the book club approaches its final novel, tensions rise and personalities clash.  After Allegra falls while climbing a rock wall (a problem I am unlikely to ever relate to), the book club holds a meeting in her hospital room.  When a big fight erupts on several fronts, the book club and the friendships holding it together are in jeopardy.  Has Jane Austen broken up the band?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

The relationships between the characters are great, and the idea of the book club is quite sweet.  Though the film clearly wants a nice happy ending, it does capture the group’s dynamic in a mostly realistic way–though the book club members support each other, there is still gossip behind each other’s backs and some rather petty fights.  At the end of the day, though, the relationships between women are the driving force of this film as they care for and heal each other.

That being said, I found some of the characters insufferable.  Prudie and Allegra both annoyed the bejeezus out of me, mostly because both of their characters make choices that are painfully terrible and may have negative consequences for others.  I absolutely loved Bernadette and would’ve completely supported a movie that was 75% about her.

This is a light-hearted movie akin to a soothing cup of tea–which, coincidentally goes along perfectly with a good book.

Would my blog wife watch this one again or just read the book?  Read her review here to find out!