Fyre movie review: Netflix’s explosive new film lights up millennial culture
Fyre movie review: Netflix’s new film burns with insight, takes a lit match to millennial culture and explores the disastrous events leading up to the 2017 Fyre Festival debacle. Rating: 4/5.Updated: Jan 21, 2019 12:32 IST
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
Director - Chris Smith
Rating - 4/5
Those of you expecting an hour-and-a-half of schadenfreude while watching Fyre, the explosive new documentary on Netflix, will likely be disappointed. Instead of tracing the chain of events that, in 2017, created a Lord of the Flies-like atmosphere on a Bahamian island, the documentary tries to understand how one man - the now convicted felon Billy McFarland - could dupe thousands of people of their money.
Many of you might remember being mildly amused at the news that emerged from the disastrous event, where hundreds of rich kids were flown down for what was promised to be an exclusive music festival, only to be greeted by a mismanaged mess. Instead of the large villas they’d paid thousands of dollars for, they were told they’d be staying in tents - repurposed after the last hurricane - and instead of eating meals prepared by celebrity chefs, they were served cheese sandwiches in styrofoam containers. Unable to comprehend the unfairness, the rich kids adopted a mob mentality and began looting and pillaging the island, peeing on others’ mattresses for no reason, and posting Instagram updates.
Watch the Fyre trailer here
As news of the scam spread, the festival’s organisers fled the scene, leaving the rich kids trapped on the island, without the resourcefulness necessary to arrange for a way off it. “This is Darwinism at its finest,” one comedian joked later.
Interestingly, the Fyre Festival wasn’t the flagship event at all. It was merely a marketing ploy for a different product - a music booking app conceptualised by McFarland, an entrepreneur with a spotty track record; a man who made up for his severe lack of charm by somehow convincing rich investors of the potential of his ideas.
The film brings together several of the men and women who worked closely with McFarland during the run-up to the event - social media experts and organisers and caterers and managers; all of them millennials themselves. The man who McFarland hired to handle logistics was a self-taught pilot; the guy in charge of booking talent had never booked anyone in his life. Each of the individuals featured in the film is very clear about their disapproval for McFarland’s methods. According to them, it was clear that they were in over their heads, and many claim to have told McFarland to pull the plug on several occasions.
But Billy, in his own words, was ‘selling a pipe-dream to the average loser’. It is later revealed that he was producing false documents to investors and duping them out of millions in order to fuel his hair-brained schemes. He was ‘unflappable’ in moments of conflict, according to one person, and utterly ‘delusional’ when it came to what he thought about himself.
Director Chris Smith, who knows a thing or two about delusion - he made the modern non-fiction classic, American Movie in 1999 - makes the canny choice to use bits of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ score from Gone Girl, a film about a psychopath who cons the media. Reznor and Ross previously won an Oscar for their score for The Social Network, another film about a millennial entrepreneur, who currently finds himself under the scrutiny of the law.
But Fyre stops short of criticising the several other parties that were complicit in this farce. It absolves, for instance, the truckload of supermodels who were paid untold millions to promote the festival despite having no knowledge about it, and without disclosing to their legions of followers - as they are compelled to by law - that the posts were advertisements.
It also excuses the hundreds of vapid millennials who paid exorbitant amounts of money to a strange company, with the sole purpose of being able to boast about their exclusive weekend on social media.
There is real tragedy here. The kids are wealthy enough for them to be able to simply chalk this down as a bad experience - certainly, the festival revealed the worst tendencies of millennial culture - and if they learnt any lessons, the documentary does not dwell on it. But this wasn’t just a case of the rich scamming the richer. The Fyre Festival site was constructed mostly by local labour, most of whom remain unpaid to this day. The construction proceeded despite McFarland’s absolute knowledge that the labourers working for him, day and night for over a month, would never get their dues.
It is to the film’s credit that this aspect of the story is highlighted. There is emptiness in this culture, and some might find it troubling. But behind its slick thrills, Fyre burns with surprising insight.
First Published: Jan 21, 2019 12:31 IST