Over the summer, when Janeites weren’t arguing about the controversial new Netflix adaptation of Persuasion, many were praising the Austen update that was screening over on Hulu: Fire Island, which translated Pride and Prejudice into a contemporary same-sex romance.
I had mixed feelings about Fire Island, with its hectic plot mechanics and its overreliance on soft-focus montage to build its central romantic relationship. But the movie has a good heart, some funny moments, and a touchingly wistful ending, so I guess I’ve seen worse. (Heck, I know I’ve seen worse.)
Apparently, the folks at the Gotham Film & Media Institute liked the movie better than I did, because last week they announced that Fire Island will get special recognition for its ensemble work when the Gotham Awards, the Oscars of independent filmmaking, are handed out in November.
Fire Island “beautifully expresses the concept of found family,” institute executive director Jeffrey Sharp said in a statement. “The remarkably funny cast truly feels like a family, and their incredible individual talent and overall group chemistry is on display in every scene.”
Fire Island was justly praised for centering the experiences of queer and BIPOC characters, but, in one of those zeitgeist-y aligning-of-the-planets moments, it was one of two same-sex, multiracial Pride and Prejudice updates released this year.
As it happens, I preferred the other one: Gimlet Media’s podcast “Gay Pride & Prejudice,” which told its story across ten episodes running about twenty minutes each. “Gay P&P” has a good heart, more funny moments than Fire Island, and a touchingly wistful ending, plus its longer run time allows for a less rushed rendition of the plot. Try both and decide for yourself. (I can save you some time by advising you to skip the 2016 movie Before the Fall, an atrociously written, poorly acted, and amateurishly directed same-sex P&P update set in rural Virginia.)
After all this time, I seldom stop any longer to marvel at the extraordinary phenomenon that is the Jane Austen adaptation industry. But from time to time, I have to acknowledge that it is kind of amazing. Who would have thought, back in 1813, that we would one day have enough same-sex, contemporary updates of Pride and Prejudice that we could argue over their relative merits?