TV-MA because people are terrible. It's about drinking and girls in bikinis. An advertising agency's name is a profane word, so there's swearing throughout. Perhaps this documentary's claim to fame is a ridiculously over the top story about a sex act. That's pretty tonally on for this kind of movie. People love drinking way too much and acting like idiots. Then, there's also the element of these people being fleeced. That's the part I enjoy. Oops. I meant to say that this movie is about a tragedy. A very funny tragedy. TV-MA.
DIRECTOR: Chris Smith
When this happened, I don't think I've ever hit refresh more on a news story. This makes me a terrible person. Way worse things happen on a daily basis than the events of the Fyre Festival, but it intrigued me. I can stand club culture. Seeing rich jerks (a gross overstatement) getting trapped on an island with bad, but hardly life-threatening conditions is my idea of fascinating. I will also admit that I love Hoarders and Kitchen Nightmares because I put the "J" in "ENFJ". I don't know exactly what makes the Fyre documentaries so interesting, but there is something to explore. The only problem I'm going to have is that I have to write about this twice because I also watched Hulu's entry.
That's right. Within the same week, two very similar documentaries appeared on two competing streaming platforms. Fyre, as IMDB lists it, is this one. It appeared on Netflix and it is the one that is getting more press. People may argue that the Hulu one is better. I think I might discuss that more when I get to reviewing that one, but I want to talk about why this one is getting more press. There is a story in this movie that is meme worthy. It's pretty gross and really uncomfortable. If you steel yourself for this story, you'll be perfectly fine. Your imagination is probably worse than the story that is presented here. Also, if you've watched Abducted in Plain Sight, you have nothing to worry about because that is beyond imagination. But the story is fascinating regardless. It has taken over social media, so good job, Netflix! You accomplished what you planned to. You made your documentary discussable. In fact, it is really discussable. But because there are two documentaries, the very existence of these movies is actually a bit of a scandal. Pretty much the Fyre documentaries are scandal inception. There is one big problem I have with this movie and I'm not the only one. Since I'm focusing on this one, I will try to avoid discussion of the other documentary named Fyre Fraud. Fyre is a really problematic movie because of the guys who made this movie. I didn't know this when I was watching the movie. It was actually Fyre Fraud that brought it to my attention. You could almost say, "Shots...fyred?" (Boom. Nailed it. That's why I make the no bucks.) The documentary was kind of made by one of the subjects of the documentary. Yeah. I'm not talking about a documentarian who wanted to document his crazy life. No. One of the people who has a moral stake in the story made the documentary to make him / itself look better. I'm beating around the bush here, so I'm going to be very clear. Fyre was made by a company named Jerry Media. They're not actually named Jerry Media most of the time. Their fame / infamy can be found under the banner "F-Jerry." Only they add the whole word because they're rebels. Many of the memes that you may have looked at over time was probably made or stolen by Jerry Media. They have such a tight control over content that they have made it past your screens probably time and again. I really found out about these guys from Patton Oswalt and other comedians. Jerry Media makes a habit out of stealing creator content and patenting it as their own. They make it look more impressive, but they aren't known for always coming up with their own stuff. The Jerry Media guys were the people who promoted the Fyre Festival in 2016. The Netflix documentary that they produced really downplays their involvement in the entire affair. It doesn't make them look completely innocent, but they do claim to have been duped like everyone else. The other documentary does not do this. Don't give Fyre Fraud a free pass though. When I look at their documentary in a few days, they don't come out smelling like roses either.
But the documentary is watchable and I even recommend you watch the movie...critically. The whole point of my blogging project is to watch movies with a critical eye and with a mind for analysis. I can tell you in a few sentences why a movie is good or bad. I'm more looking for the insight into something and Chris Smith's Fyre actually accomplishes its goal in spades. Do I feel icky that Jerry Media has their hands all over this movie? Oh, absolutely. But for an actual play-by-play of how the Fyre Festival completely fell apart, it is definitely worth a watch. Both documentaries focus primarily on con man Billy McFarland. Billy McFarland is someone I would never want to be friends with. He's obsessed with fame and wealth. I teach at a Catholic school. I'm wired very differently. McFarland is a guy who buys islands and shows off that he buys islands. But he is a con man. Part of me, after watching both documentaries, doesn't think that McFarland thinks he's a con man. McFarland has been fed a very specific story of what he thinks the American Dream is about. He sees himself as a businessman and, to be perfectly honest, probably wanted to throw a really rad festival. Yeah, money is his first concern. But from the first steps of this documentary, it seems like McFarland didn't want this to fail in any sense of the imagination. It almost seems like the failure of Fyre was karmic retribution for all of the other corners that he's cut in his career. Honestly, I think that Billy McFarland thought he was a legitimate businessman when he started planning. Everything about Billy McFarland is about getting rich quick. His ideas aren't criminal. It's about how he lies to get the capital to make these ideas work. You know how confidence is supposed to be a good thing. (Confidence, by the way, is the expanded form of "con".) Confidence in the extreme, in both senses, is toxic. Billy McFarland knew that people wouldn't give him money because people kept telling him that his ideas were terribly flawed. They weren't thought out. They had potential, but years of going back to the grindstone were needed. So he told new investors that he already had investors and capital to sustain these ideas. When people would tell him that the Fyre Festival needed a lot more time and a lot more work, he was so confident that he would dismiss their fears. Honestly, Billy McFarland is the cautionary tale about the guy who dismissed way too many cautionary tales. He actually kind of became his own hype. Because from an outside perspective, not accepting excuses from people seems like a good thing. When people tell you, "We can't do this" and you keep succeeding through sheer luck, I can see toeing that moral line. There's no point in the movie where I didn't think that Billy McFarland wanted to make the most baller party ever and that's really interesting.
But this is where the Netflix documentary owns. Again, I laugh over rich kids having a bad time at a dumb, overpriced concert. The prices for the Fyre Festival were hilariously high. If you have that much money to hob knob with influencers (a term I'm now very familiar with), why not use it responsibly. I have spent lots of money on dumb stuff. I love comic book conventions. But I never thought that I would be partying with celebrities in the Bahamas. The thing that I'm really concerned with that the Netflix documentary succeeds at is the actual victims of the Fyre Festival: the people of the Bahamas. There's an odd feeling that I get when I go on vacation. When I have gone to resorts or cruises, I am living a life of luxury that I don't experience regularly. Resorts are known for their perfection. But almost a mile from any resort is some of the greatest poverty that has ever existed. Fyre brings the attention to these people. While rich entitled tools wanted to hang out with a Kardashian, the people of the Bahamas worked day and night to make the Fyre Festival work. At the center of the documentary is a restaurant owner who spent more money on food than should ever be spent. She had to dip into her rainy day fund to pay employees and cover the food that was consumed by work teams and early visitors. She was never reimbursed. While I can laugh all day at how trust fund kids lost a bunch of money on something stupid, my heart breaks for these people who opened their island to these crews who never even put up the show. So many people were stuck with the bill. There are moments in the film where the Fyre people talk about bravely escaping the island disguised in clothing that was not there. They huddled down in trucks and snuck onto airplanes. They smuggled themselves out of the Bahamas and we're supposed to be cheering because they weren't Billy McFarland. C'mon, really? Yeah, Billy McFarland is the bad guy of this story. There were so many people warning him not to do the Fyre Festival given that timetable. Like so many. So what is the message? While it is fun to completely dunk on 20-somethings who spent way too much on concert tickets, the idea is that there is a real victim to stuff like that. It's the idea that the poor always catch the short end of the stick for the rich. There are real victims. Yeah, Netflix wants me to feel bad for the concert goers. But that kind of stuff really hits the same spot for me as true crime documentaries. Because I'm a broken person inside, I can distance myself from those events and those people. It's when it comes to the reality of the individual that I get sad and question what it is all for. I went into Fyre with the same itch that I have when I watch The Staircase, but Fyre actually really got me more in some way. Yeah, I'm actually terrible.
So what is the point of watching the Netflix version? The Netflix version is really about the Fyre Fest first and foremost and Billy McFarland secondly. The Hulu doc is focused on the man and how that got out of control. A big takeaway was the concept of the influencer. Man, we have really become terrible as a culture, haven't we? A few years ago, I would have told you that I've always wanted to live in this era. Video games are great. I can eat any kind of foot I want because it just gets weirder all the time. But then we also live in a world where we encourage people to be famous for fame's sake. I know, ragging on the Kardashians is low hanging fruit. But that low hanging fruit is starting to affect reality. I am getting kind of old. It's weird that I'm not one of the young teachers anymore. I have been out of touch for a while now and I never really get onto the social media train (check back at this blog regularly for new content and don't forget to hit that "Share" button" on your social media platform.) Why do people flock to an island because people tell them to? Fyre wasn't a festival that had infamy. It wasn't built on its content. It was built on the idea that famous people who were paid to say that they love this kind of stuff. AND THEN THEY THEMSELVES FELL FOR IT! Critique isn't about content anymore. It's about the right voice saying that they approve or disapprove of something without actually having seen it. Why are there influencers? I know that, back in the day before he became kind of gross, Joss Whedon used to like stuff. I tended to like that. But this was intellectual properties. This would be stuff that resonated with his audiences. These influencers simply are popular on YouTube and Instag--oh. I just realized I am an old man. But maybe I'm right about being an old man. I have a student who wants me to ask a director I will be interviewing about Pewdiepie. Seriously? I don't care. I don't care at all about him. I want to ask about the art and the quality of the art, not what some celebutant thinks about a festival that they haven't experienced.
Both documentaries are worth seeing, but both are very problematic in themselves. Regardless, if you want to see exactly what happened specifically with Fyre Festival, check this one out. Keep an eye out at this page for Fyre Fraud in a few days. Until then, it's worth the watch.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.