This modern update on the Jane Austen classic is groundbreaking on several fronts. It’s also a damn great time.
Jane Austen would never have thought Pride and Prejudice would ever be adapted as an LGBTQI love story set on Fire Island, New York’s famous gay playground on Long Island.
But the American comedian and actor Margaret Cho insisted that there were similarities to Regency England, and that the author would have liked it. fire islandrom-com, which bears the name of its setting.
In the film, adapted by Joel Kim Booster, who also stars, and director Andrew Ahn, the Bennetts are reimagined as a group of friends on an annual pilgrimage to an enclave, complicated by potential romantic entanglements.
A confident Noah replaces Elizabeth Bennett, an insecure Howie replaces Jane, and an aloof Will replaces Mr. Darcy. Cho plays the supporting role of Erin, the mother of the group’s lair and the modern day counterpart of Mrs. Bennett.
Saturday night life star Bowen Young, who plays Howie, told news.com.au about the fetus fire island was seeded on a trip he and Booster took to a real party a few years ago.
“We were on one of our first trips together and he brought a copy Pride and Prejudice with him to Fire Island and kept turning to me and saying, “Wait, this reflects exactly what we’re going through in this place.” When I finally got the script years later, it fulfilled that threat.
“I read it and was blown away by how wonderfully cinematic this work was. Even though it was inspired by beats from that long history, it felt like something new.”
Yang said that when he read the script, he was constantly reminded of how much he learned from the conversations he and Booster had on Fire Island.
Cho said the film’s atmosphere reflects her own experiences on the island, especially the film’s non-judgmental portrayal of parties.
“Sometimes there’s a conservative slant in the film that we give to these ‘decadent’ parties or sexual practices, but in this film, it’s just the details,” she said. “All these things – tea drinking, lingerie party – are shown in pretty vivid detail.
“But there’s no moral or judgment to the fact that these guys are just hanging out having wild times.”
LGBTQI representation in fire island harder than just “Here’s the gay version Pride and Prejudice! There are contours in its history that are characteristic of the experience within the community.
Its two main characters are Asian American, which allows the film to resist internal discrimination, including harsh dating profile criteria: “No women, no fat people, and no Asians.”
Cho explained, “It’s about being in a queer space and still feeling like an outsider – being in a place where everyone belongs to a minority, i.e. gay culture, you still feel like a minority within a minority, because often when you are gay the thought cannot be racist, sexist, body shaming or class, but we have these prejudices no matter where we are in the queer community.
“This is the only movie I’ve ever seen that actually portrays it in a very funny way, it’s not meant to shame anyone who does. It’s more about recognizing that this is happening.”
This intersectionality of being gay and Asian American is paramount in fire islandbased on the life experiences of its main actors and director An.
For Young, bringing a character that was written in his mind into a film that plays in the sandbox of his life was a liberation.
“It feels so good not to recruit parts of yourself,” he said. “Working with Andrew Ahn as the Asian director and working with Margaret and Joel, we were able to put our best into it.
“How many times have I gotten used to going into the environment and saying, ‘I think I’ll downplay the gay features in me, or I’ll take on the gay features but tone down the Asian features.’ That’s a lot of modulation that you have to do day in and day out, right?
“Being free of it every day and being able to tackle other issues that have nothing to do with these has been really refreshing for me and I hope to feel that again in another project. I’ve been very lucky with that.”
Work on fire island was personal to Young for many reasons. Slipping into the shoes of the romantic but uptight Howie, he raised some of his own demons that he thought he had already conquered.
“Howie is a man who is deeply insecure about his fate in the gay community,” he explained. “I thought I had done a great job of growing it out in my life. I thought, “Oh, I have all these wonderful things, I have so much to be thankful for,” and I really feel confident in many areas of my life.
“Starting Howie was a really enlightening experience in terms of understanding that maybe I didn’t outgrow that feeling of insecurity.
“Everyone is insecure to some degree, but because Howie might feel a little worse, I thought I avoided it. I thought I was ahead of those demons.
“It turned out to be very enlightening to be able to go back to them and get familiar with what I still had to deal with, and then transfer it to this character.”
Modern updates of classical literature are not new, at the moment it is a separate genre inhabited by similar ignorant, 10 things I don’t like about you and more. fire island combines the conventions of a romantic comedy and layers on contemporary sensibilities, fun and a focus on diverse experiences that are rarely the center of attention.
Cho said fire island and challenges and amplifies the Hollywood rom-com.
“There are tricks that we go back to in romantic comedies because it really works.
“We love watching enemies turn into lovers, we love watching a dream unfold, and that’s one of the nice things about romantic comedies. The thing is, we’re included in this for the first time as homosexual Asian Americans. It makes it really deep.”
Fire Island is streaming on Disney+ starting Friday, June 17th.