Joel Kim Booster says he had no interest in "sugarcoating" Fire Island to make it "palatable"

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Joel Kim Booster
Joel Kim Booster

Just like Las Vegas, much of what happens on the LGBTQ+ party haven that is Fire Island stays on Fire Island. But comedian Joel Kim Booster, who directs and stars in a new comedy set in the East Coast destination, doesn’t think it should remain that way—especially when it comes to honest onscreen depictions of queer sexuality.

“I don’t think the movie is especially explicit. It’s just matter-of-fact about the ways in which some gay men have sex,” Booster told Variety of his film Fire Island’s more intimate scenes. “I didn’t want to shy away from that, especially in the interest of making it more palatable for certain people.”

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In Fire Island, Brooklynite Noah (Booster) and his chosen family embark on a weeklong trip to the eponymous vacation spot, courtesy of a beachside home owned by their lesbian matriarch (an always-pitch-perfect Margaret Cho.) As the group navigates the social dynamics of the island’s scene, Noah finds himself at odds with (yet drawn to) an uptight lawyer (Conrad Ricamora) living in a more opulent home further down the beach. Will they or won’t they? Cue the Jane Austen comparisons (the film is considered a reimagined Pride & Pride).

The Hulu/Searchlight film’s refreshingly open discussion of gay sex and love meets a need for raw, real content for queer people, something Booster said is all too rare.

“Sex is a big part of my reality,” he explained. “I find a lot of gay media, especially when it is produced by big studios like Searchlight, to be fairly sanitized. I really pushed back against… sugarcoating it.”

Even without a coat of sugar, Fire Island’s boozy, sex-positive setting still feels genuinely sweet, in part due to the story’s central relationship, between Noah and his best friend Howie (Bowen Yang.) Yang, Booster, and fellow co-star Matt Rogers have been collaborators and friends offscreen for years.

“At the end of the day, the movie is about this friendship between Bowen and I. That brings a lot of heart to the movie,” Booster shared. “A lot of people probably are going into this movie thinking it’s a big sex romp. There is sex in the movie, but at its core, it’s sweet and a little sappy.” Sweet, sappy, and sexy? Ms. Austen would be proud.