Archive for July, 2022

Love Fool: Fire Island at Frameline46 Film Festival

Beacon for the future, Fire lsland, 2022

I recently caught Fire Island, Andrew Anh’s latest feature film, at the Frameline Film Festival here in San Francisco. As always the festival is the leadup to Pride Weekend, which is the last weekend of June and which culminates in the massive and legendary San Francisco Pride Parade. One of the most memorable Frameline screenings that I attended took place in 2013 on the same day that the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court, legalizing same-sex marriage in the United States. That night the Castro district was packed with joyous revelers celebrating the decision and we had to fight our way through crowds thronging the streets to get into the movie theater. 

As fate would have it, the screening of Fire Island at Frameline also occurred right around the time of another landmark Supreme Court case, but this time it was night before the grim and regressive decision that reversed the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the US.  As I write this I can barely articulate my sorrow and rage and my continued despair as the US slides further toward fascism.  Now that Roe v Wade has been overturned, Fire Island is either a beacon for the future or a time capsule of a way of life that will be threatened soon.

Hedonistic, Fire Island, 2022

The film itself is delightful—a queer Asian American reworking of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set on the titular island that follows a friend group of five QTPOC who arrive at the legendary gay vacation mecca for a week of fun and frolic. Joel Kim Booster grounds the film as Noah, the pretty, somewhat jaded narrator of the story, with Bowen Yang as his sweetly vulnerable bestie Howie. Conrad Ricamora is droll and deadpan as Noah’s romantic foil,  the upright and slightly repressed Will. James Scully as Charlie, Howie’s earnest love interest, is appropriately dorky and starry-eyed, with slightly absurd windswept hair. Margaret Cho as the lesbian den mother as usual lights up the screen. Most definitely a fun and kicky romcom, the film captures Fire Island’s cruisy, hedonistic vibe with many scenes of sleek beautiful cuties gyrating at underwear parties and swimming pools. Though the film casts a somewhat critical eye on the young, hairless, slender gay male standard of beauty, one of my quibbles about the movie is its lack of a lot of body diversity.  But the film does critique the shallowness of the Fire Island scene and it doesn’t shy away from exploring the racism and classism Howie and Noah et al face in the snobby, mostly white Fire Island milieu. 

Collectivist, Fire Island, 2022

Most significantly, Fire Island emphasizes the community minded mentality of Noah and Howie’s BIPOC chosen family. As director Andrew Ahn mentioned in the Q&A following the screening at the Castro, whereas David, the protagonist of his first feature film Spa Night, was pretty solitary, in Fire Island it’s all about the importance of supporting your tribe and *SPOILER* the film’s last scene interrupts Will and Noah’s first kiss to reestablish those collectivist connections. Fire Island is the saucy, community minded queer Asian American romcom we’ve all been waiting for and it’s great to see director Ahn successfully make the jump from indie film world to more mainstream productions. We need strong and articulate Asian American and queer voices like Ahn’s in Hollywood in order to combat the oppressive forces  in the US that want to obliterate the progress toward liberation and justice that our communities have made in the past fifty years. 

Note: There’s another melancholic aspect of this screening. The management of the Castro has recently been taken over by Another Planet Entertainment which plans to use the theater as a mixed-venue with an emphasis on live music. Will this be the last film I see there before the seats are ripped out and the floor is leveled? Over the years I’ve spent countless hours there watching movies so the possibility that the Castro will no longer primarily be a cinema is endlessly sad. There is movement afoot to prevent this, however, but whether the effort will succeed is yet unknown.

July 9, 2022 at 4:35 am Leave a comment


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