Review: Fyre (2019)

The failure of the Fyre Festival was one of those spectacular social media events, a cavalcade of schadenfreude as we collectively laughed as rich kids overreacted to a bad vacation. It was symbolic of issues within social media, an event carried entirely by hype and no outside oversight, sold through ‘influencers,’ with no one questioning who was running it and if they had ever done something similar before. Fyre dives into the background details, pinpointing the people involved and why it went wrong.

Being a documentary about recent events that are still tangled in legal issues and interviewing people who may or may not be culpable, Fyre is a film that needs to be met with heavy scrutiny – who is making this and what are they trying to say? If you went purely off this documentary as presented, everything seems to fall on CEO Billy McFarland, that rich white frat bro-type seemingly designed to be hated. He obviously is a central negative force – but an event this big has several people involved, and no one seemed to do anything meaningful to prevent the disaster from being fully realized. There was no excuse to allow people to actually arrive at the festival grounds.

What Fyre fails to meaningfully establish is that this was a scam created by rich people targeting rich people. The documentary casually introduces attendees, and they are never questioned. Who are these people that are willing to drop thousands of dollars on a festival without first making sure it was the real thing – especially one occurring in 2017 with Blink-182 as a headliner? These aren’t sympathetic figures, but Fyre is happy to drop successful venture capitalists in front of us and act like they’re everyday victims.

As long as you go in with a critical mind, Fyre does a pretty good job establishing what allowed this to happen – even if some people might be covering their own tails, there are solid elements being discussed, like how they managed such expert marketing and the struggles of attempting to put together a big event in such a short time. There were promises of something that had never been done before, with no one thinking to ask why it hadn’t been done before. This was a concept being sold as a finished product. There’s quite a bit of fun in seeing people who can usually buy their way out of every problem running into something that no amount of money can fix.

The film is at its strongest when it exposes the actual victims at the heart of the matter – as in people who were actually harmed by the festival. Interviews with the locals who did the actual ground work are depressing, people promised something meaningful for their community and then abandoned without pay. This would be a stronger documentary if they gave this subject more time – but Fyre seems to want to run off the more absurd elements.

The Fyre Festival is certainly an event worthy of a cinematic exploration, but this film is coming at a time where it allows certain people to save face – it’s hard to view it as a meaningful statement until the dust settles. It’s certainly a fun subject matter presented fashionably, but the film itself is teaching us not to trust presentations simply because they have a slick presentation. A fuller truth will be revealed in time – but this is a fair summary as we have it today.

3 Stars Out of 5