When it comes to mainstream queer-led content, there are very few to name and choose from; and most of the ones that come to mind right away (Love, Simon, for example) are led by straight actors and almost catered to heterosexual audiences. When it comes to straight-identifying actors playing queer characters, I’m not particularly opposed. Still, there is something more authentic about openly gay actors portraying these roles, knowing they’ve fully lived and understand who they’re portraying. A perfect showcase of unapologetic queer filmmaking is a film that I was lucky enough to catch early and just in time for June.
To start off Pride month this year, we have the release of Hulu’s Fire Island, written and starring Joel Kim Booster (Shrill, Unplugging) and co-led by Bowen Yang (Saturday Night Live). Fire Island follows best friends Noah (Booster) and Howie (Yang) along with their group of gay friends who are taking their yearly vacation to the infamous queer party destination to stay with their motherly figure Erin (Margaret Cho, 30 Rock), only to learn that this will be their last year at Erin’s summer home before she sells it. Noah, a man who’s afraid of commitment and rejection, decides to devote his trip to getting Howie laid, claiming he will not sleep with any of the thousands of attractive half-naked men roaming around the island until Howie finds a suitor.
If we’re truthful, even by 2022, there’s still a considerable lack of LGBTQIA+ romantic comedies and platonic queer friendships in film and TV. Most of the content ends in heartbreak and death when there are so many beautiful aspects of the community to highlight, including just plain old happiness. Where Fire Island thrives is how much love, affection, and queerness is rooted within its central characters, which are essentially a chosen family. This group lifts each other up in all areas while still reading each other to filth at times. As much as I adore the characters in this group, the film mostly centers around Noah and Howie, who have become one of my favourite new duos in cinema. Joel Kim Booster and Bowen Yang’s chemistry is truly off the charts and had me smiling throughout its runtime. As someone who truly believes that Bowen Yang is holding SNL on his shoulders every week, I expected him to be the hilarious scene-stealer in this film. While he was funny, Booster stole the show and had me hollering at the screen for an hour and forty minutes. His line delivery, charisma and charm were nothing short of spectacular, and I’m genuinely hoping people want to see so much more of him after this because I for sure do.
While the comedy in this film knocked it out of the park, the romantic and dramatic moments held their own. Both Howie and Noah had great romantic storylines, one being a sort of enemy to lovers (which is such a guilty pleasure cliche to many gay people) and the other being Howie’s journey with confidence and wanting his big climactic love story moment. It was refreshing to see the main love story not center around the slim, conventionally attractive lead for once. While Bowen Yang is a handsome man, he doesn’t check all the boxes for what Hollywood has deemed to be a leading man. This film didn’t just showcase fit, white gay men finding love and sleeping around but instead showed a diverse cast of queer people who deal with constant microaggressions from those same white gay men daily. It’s no secret that there’s a massive issue regarding the body standard and heavy ignorance from the community within larger cities precisely. This film does an incredible job of showing that same ignorance while also showing the beauty of the community.
Fire Island is a charming, hilarious and fantastic showcase of queer storytelling and talent. It’s an authentically gay film catered to queer people specifically, although anyone of any orientation will love this film. Joel Kim Booster is an absolute star, and I genuinely believe this will kick his career into high gear and give him even more success than he already has. Be sure to support and watch this film on June 3rd; it truly is the perfect film to start this year’s Pride.