Just to clear the way of any confusion, this is a review of the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix, and not Fyre Fraud on Hulu. This one sometimes includes its tagline “The Greatest Party That Never Happened,” but that doesn’t appear to officially be part of its title. The fact that two competing documentaries were made and released about the same event within days of one another speaks to the absurdity of the controversial music festival and also why it appeals to something deep inside each of us.
The Fyre Festival was supposed to be the most luxurious music festival ever thrown. It was going to be a private island in the Bahamas loaded with models and Instagram influencers. Cabanas and yachts would provide accommodations, while gourmet chefs would cater the entire event. Of course, none of that happened and the appeal of Fyre is tracing a slow-motion car wreck and seeing exactly where it went off the rails at each step. It does a very good job at that, and even better at late in the film pulling back another layer to show you it was even more off the rails than most involved realized.
That’s also the biggest liability of this film. Sure, it’s entertaining and fascinating, but it feels like it has very little to say about the whole situation. It’s pretty clear that Billy McFarland is its Machiavellian villain, but what about everyone else? Are they simply innocent victims along for the ride? I don’t need everyone involved condemned, but can’t a film so rooted in social media and cache at least make an attempt at meta-commentary?
There is a half-hearted attempt near the end, but I suspect the reason we hear so little is to condemn the swindled victims for their desire to be “Insta-famous” is to condemn much of their audience, as well. The Fyre Festival sold a fantasy to its ticket buyers, but it’s the same fantasy we’re sold in every commercial break or glossy magazine spread. The downfall of the Fyre Festival was a microcosm of the downfall of Western society—not simply capitalism. Point that out and the film probably feels too political or preachy, but ignore it and it almost feels like its reveling in McFarland’s wit to sucker his victims. A late revolting scene of him out on bond and plainly running another scam in front of cameras feels like Catch Me If You Can with too much (read: any) Axe Body Spray.
Maybe we’ll have to wait for the sequel?