Tuesday, January 15

Fyre Fraud Review

By Emery Snyder @leeroy711
Director: Jenner Furst & Julia Willoughby Nelson
Starring: Billy McFarland, Ja Rule & Seth Crossino
Hulu Original January 14, 2019

“You lost a box of keys to $2M worth of houses???”

The first shots of the year have been officially “fyred” by Hulu in the war of streaming superiority. And although I’m sure the giant, Netflix will survive, this particular shot hit its mark with perfect accuracy and force. In case you missed it, Netflix has been airing a trailer for their latest original documentary, FYRE: THE GREATEST PARTY THAT NEVER HAPPENED, set for release on Friday, the 18th. The film is about 2017’s failed exotic luxury music festival that eventually landed its founder, Billy McFarland a 6-year prison sentence for fraud. But yesterday, only 4 days before Netflix and without any fanfare or warning, in an act of beautiful disrespect to the streaming behemoth, Hulu dropped their own doc on the same subject matter. It’s very good.

The biggest thing that separates the Hulu doc from the Netflix film is the exclusive Billy McFarland interview. To be clear, this interview is not just a one-off tangential. It serves as the framing device for the entire story. He is a fascinating character and by the end of the film, you will likely be questioning your own judgement. He has a very specific charm. Early in the film, someone characterizes him as a “used car salesman”. I don’t find this to be a fair description at all. Used car salesmen don’t even come close to emoting the brand of apparent sincerity that McFarland seems to have mastered. 

The film seeks to marry today’s culture of social media “FOMO”, fake news and memes with the millennial generation’s susceptibility of con-artistry. The first 20 minutes or so are more or less dedicated to exploring the parallel journeys of Billy McFarland’s rising business ventures with the explosion of communication types and media. This new media age that we find ourselves in has created an entire new and lucrative industry out of little more than hype. Hype for hype’s sake that is created on the back of hype for the expressed purpose of
creating more hype…. And somehow, money falls out. The old man in me is screaming that this is not a sustainable business model. But then again, trendsetters, fashion icons and influencers like Kylie Jenner, Huda Kattan and Grumpy Cat don’t seem to be as concerned as I am with things like whether I have enough gas in my tank. Maybe I’m the one doing it wrong. And that’s it, this film seeks to explore how that insecurity can be exploited for grotesque monetary gains.

I’m marking down the film’s editing as a positive as well. Full of jump cuts to various memes and social media snapshots that do a great job capturing what was in reality, such a brief moment in time. It’s also full of pictures and video clips of McFarland and Ja Rule as they were planning the fated festival. Ja Rule decided not to be contribute to the documentary but unfortunately for him, that didn’t even come close to keeping him out of the film. He would have likely served himself much more by agreeing to be interviewed. At least he could have told his side of the story. In the age of instant, real-time documentation of a celebrity’s every move, it’s hard to claim any sort of plausible deniability after the dumpster “fyre” has already begun. It’s a bit of ironic poetic justice that the same mechanism that these people rely on for the majority of their wealth creation can so quickly be turned around to build an uncontrollable narrative about them.  

To be fair to Netflix, I don’t get screeners, so I have no idea how good their film is. It’s a great story and it’s in the hands of AMERICAN MOVIE and JIM & ANDY director, Chris Smith. I’m still a little interested in it but I think Hulu has sufficiently taken the wind out of its sails…. Don’t worry, they’ll be fine. It is one of 5 original films they are releasing on the same weekend.

Emery's Rating
4 out of 5 Stars

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