Fyre Fraud is entertaining, but that's about it.
In this age of news and entertainment at our fingertips, perhaps the most exciting event in recent years was the minute-by-minute takedown of the much-publicized Fyre Fest. For some on social media, the event had been mass marketed using influencers and celebrities. For others who'd never heard of it until it's demise, the fest's legacy would live on as a punch line and hard-earned lesson of over-promising. Hence, the fraud title given to Hulu's documnetary about the rise and fall of both the event and its founder, Billy McFarland.
Netflix also released a documentary about the event within the same week as Hulu's film and they each take different, eye-popping approaches to the mess. The strength of Hulu's doc comes in behind-the-scenes footage of an interview with McFarland, interspersed with raw and produced footage of pre- and post-event activities. McFarland has become his generation's most notorious con man at this point. It's like Enron for millennials.
Directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, Fyre Fraud cleverly sells its story in a lighthearted manner. It's still every bit a documentary, rich in interviews with the people who were deceived (both former employees of McFarland and rich customers who are still waiting for money) and self-serving videos we'd yet been seen. While some of the same footage litters Netflix's documentary, a plus to Hulu's formula is the raking of Jerry Media, the marketing company behind much of the Fyre Festival's viral campaigns. That same company has a hand in Netflix's film. It feels a little like insider-trading after watching the Hulu version of the tale.
McFarland's business partner, Ja Rule, is featured in multiple behind-the-scenes moments. The most impressive are the ones where he inherently incriminates himself. The whole story, including the viral images of lackluster sandwiches and refugee-like amenities, is enough to feel like some sort of millennial jab from Saturday Night Live. And, Fyre Fraud realizes that. It never lets the ridiculousness of it subside.
It sides with those hurt the most by the con: the rich kids and hipsters hoping for a weekend away. It also leans into highlighting the workers on the Caribbean island who are still waiting for payment. Unfortunately, they are a side piece to the more extreme, American-focused images that have more of a social punch.
Like with last year's Bohemian Rhapsody, sometimes it's easy to be distracted by a film's premise when thinking about if the film was actually good. The Fyre Festival will always be fun to pick apart, but Fyre Fraud is a bit one-note. It knows its strength lies in its interviews with McFarland, but it never asks the tougher questions. To find out, later, that they had to pay McFarland to participate seems just as dirty as the film's point of showing how Netflix was collaborating with Jerry Media. Bad judgment all around.