The long trip to the screen behind “Fire Island,” a gay rom-com loosely adapted from Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” may be more interesting than the movie. Developed for the since-defunct Quibi (RIP), the project shifted from the originally planned “quick bite” format to a film making its debut on Hulu, but it still feels like less than a full meal.
It’s hard to say definitively now, but the project might wind up best remembered as a vehicle for Bowen Yang, who has seemed poised for bigger things since joining “Saturday Night Live,” and comic Joel Kim Booster, who is actually the movie’s star as well as its writer. They’re joined by a cast that includes Margaret Cho and Conrad Ricamora (“How to Get Away With Murder”), in merely the latest attempt (see “Clueless” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary”) to dress up Austen in a more contemporary package.
The transplant process here is pleasant enough but doesn’t entirely work, with Booster’s Noah and Yang’s Howie part of a group of friends who descend on Fire Island for an annual getaway weekend, describing the bared flesh and emphasis on abs as “gay Disney World.” Within the group, the dynamic is skewed by Noah’s matchmaking efforts on behalf of the more buttoned-up Howie, while insisting he isn’t looking for a relationship but stumbling into one nevertheless.
The wild parties and no-strings-attached hookups don’t immediately evoke thoughts of Austen’s tightly cinched corsets, but the question of Noah not recognizing his own needs as he funnels his energy into the reluctant Howie does follow the basic blueprint.
“Fire Island” – arriving amid a wave of Pride Month-related programming – doesn’t quite possess enough substance to sustain itself, which might have explained the appeal of Quibi’s short-form approach for this particular property.
Directed by Andrew Ahn, the movie’s contemporary wrinkles – how this diverse group of friends stays together, and Noah’s sense of being looked down upon due to class and racial divisions within the gay community – work marginally better. There are also funny throwaway lines scattered along the way, including an overt Austen reference lest anyone have missed the parallels.
“Fire Island” primarily wants to be fun, not necessarily profound, so it needs to be consumed on those terms. Austen adaptations clearly never go out of style, but this latest variation reminds us that alone doesn’t mean they pack enough accessories to completely validate the trip.
“Fire Island” premieres June 3 on Hulu. It’s rated R.