Editor’s Note: The following contains Fire Island spoilers.Jane Austen is one of those classic authors who has won over screenwriters around the world, inspiring countless movies and TV shows. The most recent Austen adaptation to make the rounds is Netflix’s next one Persuasion. However, 2022 has already seen the release of another masterful reworking of a classic Austen novel on screen: Andrew Ahnit is fire island.
2022 Pride Month launch on Hulu, fire island brings the intrigue of pride and pride to the gay scene of the 2020s. Gone are the ballrooms and estates of the Regency era, and here are the bars, clubs and house parties of the adjacent queer vacation spot on Long Island. Still, fire island has a lot in common with the Pride and Prejudice earlier versions, and not just because of its source material. Most importantly, Andrew Ahn manages to perfectly capture the raw energy and titillating restraint of arguably the most famous and beloved adaptation of the novel: 2005 Pride and Prejudicerealized by Joe Wright.
fire island does not try to hide its connection to other works inspired by Austen and Austen. The proper first line spoken in the film is precisely the one that dear old Jane chose as the opening of her 1813 book, although Noah (Joel Kim Booster) is quick to point out that this “lady-starved” thing looks like straight nonsense. Later in the film, as Noah continues one of his tirades against Will (Conrad Ricamora), fire island‘s equivalent of Mr. Darcy, Howie (Bowen Yang) cuts it with “Way hard, Tai” a direct reference to cluelessAusten’s most iconic adaptation Emma. But it’s with Wright’s film that the film really resonates. Amid underwear parties, sexual innuendo, and Molly pills that may just be ordinary probiotics, Ahn manages to create a Mr. Bingley-like sexual tension (Simon Wood) briefly touching Jane Bennett’s fabric (Rosamund pike) or that of Mr. Darcy (Matthew McFayden) Unforgettable hand bending after helping Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) to his car. All of her efforts culminate in a well-deserved kiss between Noah and Will at the end of the film, but the real highlight is the dance the pair share at the aforementioned underwear party.
In order to strike that balance between obvious lust and a kind of romantic stoicism, Ahn must make some changes to the dynamic between the Bennetts and the Netherfield Park mob. Or, rather, between scam queen Erin’s (Marguerite Cho) five “kids” and Charlie (James Scully) guests. Regency England and 2022 Fire Island couldn’t be more different from each other. So some of the changes Ahn has to make come out of necessity. In order to make the story more believable and relevant to our times, the traditional Bennett home is replaced with a found family of five gay men and a lonely lesbian who bought a house on the island with the money she won through a trial. . Erin is supposed to replace both Bennett parents, but, in reality, she is all Mrs. Bennett (Brenda Blethyn), yelling about her babies and making inappropriate comments about charging Charlie at the worst possible times. However, although she is excited about one of her boys dating a doctor, Erin doesn’t have to worry about marrying them off, lest they become destitute. The imminence of Mr. Bennett’s (Donald Sutherland) the death that will drive his five daughters into absolute poverty is replaced by the urgency to enjoy one last summer on the island before Erin has to sell her house to make up for her poor financial decisions.
The parallels are not hard to spot. Noah and Howie, of course, represent Elizabeth and Jane, but their bond was born not of brotherly love, but of identification: being both Asian and working-class, they understand the amount of prejudice and constraints that the other has to bear. Lizzie’s younger sisters, Lidya (Jena Malone) and Kitty (Carey Mulligan) are replaced by twinks Keegan (Tomas Matos) and Luke (matt rogers), while Regency nerd Mary (Talulah Riley) is represented by the stretched maximum (Torian Miller). Instead of Lydia’s shameful escape with Mr. Wickham (Friend Rupert), there is Dex (Zane Phillips) deliberately leaking a sex tape of him and Luke. And, instead of paying for the wedding to save the Bennetts’ reputation, Will saves the day with the threat of legal action.
Some characters are cut or transformed entirely to better fit the story. Mr. Darcy’s lovely little sister, Georgiana (Tamzin Merchant), who is briefly described as a possible match for Mr. Bingley, gives way to Charlie’s shallow ex, Rhys (Michel Graceffa). In other cases, characters and scenes are merged. Cooper (Nick Adams) is Miss Bingley (Kelly Reilly) when he makes Noah and Howie feel unwelcome at Charlie’s house, but it’s Lady Catherine (Judi Dench) telling Noah that Charlie brought Will to the island to hang out with. In a way, he’s even Lady Catherine’s poor, sickly daughter, since she was the one who was supposed to marry Darcy.
But the most important differences and similarities are those between Mr. Darcy and Will, and Elizabeth and Noah. The fire island the main couple keep many of their Pride and Prejudice quirks of their counterparts and are still very recognizable. Nevertheless, some things had to be changed to bring their love story into its new setting as well as to make them more compelling. Not that Lizzie and Darcy aren’t compelling enough, but the stakes of fire island are very different from those of Pride and Prejudice. Therefore, the exact same dynamic between the same characters could never take off.
Noah has a lot in common with Elizabeth Bennett. They are both poor, but not poor-poor. They both like to read, have a very sour sense of humor, and aren’t likely to take crap from others with a straight face. Noah is very proud, as is Elizabeth, and takes Will’s mean words about him to heart. Much like Miss Bennett does at the ball in Netherfield, Noah makes it clear that he’s only being polite when forced to entertain Will at Erin’s dinner. However, Noah is much less passive than Lizzie. First of all, there’s a certain Emma quality to him. Like this other heroine of Austen, Noah is a man with a mission: to fuck his best friend. His availability until the end of the film mainly comes from the fact that he promised to find a match for Howie before he goes looking for someone for himself. Howie, in turn, is much more insecure than Jane, reminding us more clueless‘ Tai (Brittany Murphy) Where Emmait’s Harriet.
Noah also doesn’t sit around waiting for Will to get things done. He follows Will into the Ice Palace when he tries to escape him and is there to throw Dex’s phone into the pool after Will summons the power of law. This initiative has to do with the fact that he is a man, of course, but also with the fact that we are no longer in the 1800s. Even if the protagonist of Ahn were a woman, the audience would expect that she did more than just sit around while her love took care of things.
Likewise, Will has a lot in common with Mr. Darcy, but there are a few key differences. The pattern for all brooding romantic heroes is there in the moments when Will looks unhappy with Noah and his family, as well as in his lines about Noah not being hot enough to be so boring. Her concern for Charlie’s feelings is just as palpable as Darcy’s concern for Bingley. The scenes in which Mr. Darcy simply refuses to face his feelings and walks off are reproduced with some exaggeration, with Will throwing his ice cream cone and running as soon as he sees Noah. But, on the other hand, Will is more open, and his affection for Noah is much easier to notice than Darcy’s. You rarely see disdain on Conrad Ricamora’s face. His mask of seriousness and boredom often even breaks a little, revealing a shy smile or a timid benevolent gaze. Unlike Mr. Darcy’s sudden mood swings, which we only understand as affection because that’s what we expect, Will has more nuance for him. When he first meets Noah, it even looks like he’s already a bit interested – until the fake boyfriend thing takes him by surprise.
Will also grows closer to Noah in aspects that go beyond affection and desire. Like Noah, he’s Asian, and his token role in his group of white friends makes it hard for us to believe he’s 100% comfortable in his position. This is quite a change from Mr Darcy, who at first seems quite comfortable with Miss Bingley’s elitist commentary. Although Will is said to come from the money, Noah is also made to identify with him in class cases, as his job as an attorney usually involves defending aggrieved tenants in eviction cases. It has a lot to do with the film’s low stakes compared to its source material. When the choice is between marriage and misery, Mr. Darcy’s social distancing is irrelevant, or even desirable. But when the only thing at play is a connection that may or may not evolve into something more, it seems unlikely that anyone will be hit by someone so far away and so hard to read.
Likewise, twitching of hands and fondling of clothing have no place in the sexually liberated atmosphere of fire island. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t have equivalents. Not quite in Howie and Charlie’s relationship, which is built much more chastely around sweet kisses and puzzles. But in this evening of underwear, among half-naked bodies dancing, kissing and rubbing against each other, Noah and Will share a moment as tense as it is sweet. Just as the touch of Elizabeth’s hand is an indication of something more, Will and Noah are surrounded by the promise of sex. The revelers make their intentions as clear as the Bennett sisters’ desire to find suitable husbands. Yet Will and Noah barely touch each other. Their hands are resting on each other’s bodies, but they don’t move, and their kiss ends before it even has a chance to begin. Ahn’s camera captures them up close, focusing on detail, emphasizing the hesitant nature of their touches. And it’s fire islandThe flexing of the hand of, right there: the culmination of a muted sexual tension that grows under cover amid much more explicit relationships.