The following is a review of FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened — Directed by Chris Smith.
Nowadays it’s tough to be informed about every tiny little thing social media cares about. When I’m not terrified about why an elderly star’s name is trending on Twitter, I don’t pay a lot of attention to what is trending on social media — something has to stand out, or my timeline has to tweet about it constantly, for me to really notice (unless it’s relevant to my interests, of course).
For that reason, Fyre Festival was only something I heard about in 2017. It wasn’t really on my radar, and before I had watched this documentary, I would’ve probably just likened it to some other huge music festival that I had never attended. That scene just is not my world, which is why this documentary was so fascinating to me.
And, let me tell you, I was dumbfounded by how absolutely insane the story of Fyre and Billy MacFarland is. It’ll remind you of The Social Network and The Wolf of Wall Street for good reason. Someday it’s going to end up as a fascinating film, and one lucky actor will get the role of a lifetime as the delusional entrepreneur, Billy MacFarland.
FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is directed by Chris Smith, who, in 2017, made the excellent Netflix documentary Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, and it is a documentary that tells you the story of how a music festival meant to promote a booking-application ended up as a catastrophe that ended in class action lawsuits, prison sentences, social media schadenfreude, and, well, additional scams.
It featured a noteworthy musician at the center of it all, viral videos, trending hashtags, millions of dollars, and an island in the Bahamas full of supermodels — oh, and by the way, that island used to belong to Pablo Escobar. FYRE tells the mind-numbing, but not entirely unbelievable, story of how an entrepreneurial boy wonder was revealed to be a grossly incompetent con-artist who will remind you of Mark Zuckerberg, Donald Trump, and your average frat boy with an inflated opinion of himself.
This is a story about a festival designed by a man who said he wanted to sell a pipe dream to your average loser — a man who was clinging on to this belief that he deserved the life of a movie star and the parties that rock stars have, which is what one person says in the ‘behind-the-scenes’ footage, at one point.
FYRE is very cinematic, and it provides you with never-before-seen behind-the-scenes footage of MacFarland and the Fyre-employees both on the island and in Skype-meetings. In one piece of footage, we see an individual say that they need to reshoot a conversation because it needed to seem natural. So, of course, take the footage with a grain of salt, but, for the most part, these shots felt like true, intimate moments captured on film.
In one interview, which I won’t forget for a long time, one of MacFarland’s closest associates — who, supposedly, tried to calm things down again and again — reveals that MacFarland asked him to perform oral sex on a customs officer so that the festival attendees could get water.
It must be said, Smith’s film, thankfully, also goes into how locals were used. You’ll have a good idea of who the victims are when the film is over, and you’ll be able to make up your own mind as to how many people should be held accountable for what happened.
Perhaps the commentary on the social media-obsessed generation that was duped could have been more cutting and skilled, but it is one of the most entertaining documentaries that I’ve seen in a long time precisely because the story is so incredible and the subjects are so immature and immoral.
Chris Smith’s FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened tells a story that you have to see to believe. That is, unless you lived it, or followed the drama closely on social media. I was shaking my head in disbelief (and swearing in disbelief, by the way) from start to finish of this jaw-dropping and brilliantly paced documentary with fascinating access to the chaos of the failed festival.
7.7 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.