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‘Joy Ride’ Review: Ashley Park and Stephanie Hsu in a Raunchy, Violent Comedy with a Sincere Heart

Adele Limes Joy ride is an ordinary and propulsive feature debut that was set in motion by a beautiful chance encounter. It’s 1998 and Lolo (Milana Wan) and her parents have just moved to White Falls, a suburban and very white enclave in Washington state. Their first meaningful encounter with the neighborhood – which Lim introduces in a flashy montage – and its residents is at a local playground. “Are you Chinese?” the Sullivans (David Denman and Annie Mumolo), a white family, asks them. The Chens (Kenneth Liu and Debbie Fan) exchange incredulous looks before hitting back: “Yes, but we speak English.” And, they add, they are from California.

The Sullivans are thrilled; it turns out their clumsy investigation was a genuine attempt to help their daughter Audrey (Lennon Yee), a Chinese adoptee, make a new friend. Thus begins the relationship between Audrey and Lolo, which grows from there into an affectionate sororal bond. As the only two Asian Americans in their small town, they are each other’s mirrors and sources of comfort.

Joy Ride

It comes down to

Lots of fun.

Location: SXSW Film Festival (Headliners)
Date of publication: Friday July 7
Form: Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu
Director: Adel Lime
screenwriters: Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao

1 hour 32 minutes

Audrey and Lolo’s friendship is the foundation of Joy Ride, which presents itself as a caustic, Asian-diaspora-representative romp. The film, which premiered at SXSW and will hit theaters in July, is laced with the same bawdy humor as classic contemporary American studio comedies, from The hangover And Pineapple Express Unpleasant Bridesmaids And girls trip. And like trousers, another feisty SXSW contestant, Joy Ride tries to prove (or prove again) that populations still marginalized by Hollywood (women, people of color, queer people) can be just as unapologetically brash, sassy, ​​and rowdy.

Lim’s directorial debut surpasses on that last point. Joy Ridewritten by sitcom veterans Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao (Family man), gets a kick out of guiding his characters through absurd, often hilarious situations. The movie is full of frenetic cocaine-driven decision making, raunchy threesomes and chaotic impersonations. The deft scenario provides the dizzying energy that flows through it Joy ridebut it’s Ashley Park’s performances (Emily in Paris), sherry cola (Shortcomings), Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere Everything at once) and Sabrina Wu who maintain the film’s anarchic pulse.

After building up the necessary backstory, Joy Ride moves to the present day, where Audrey (Park), a powerful corporate lawyer, prepares for a career-changing business trip to China. Closing the deal with Beijing would earn Audrey, the only woman and seemingly the only person of color at her firm, an exciting promotion. Her boss doesn’t know that she, an adoptee with white parents, doesn’t speak Mandarin. To help her translate, Audrey invites Lolo (Cola), now an artist who creates whimsical, sex-positive sculptures, to come along. It’s been decades since the two women met on the playground, and while they’re still close, the relentlessness of time and diverging priorities threaten to change their friendship. Audrey yearns for a life outside of White Falls, while Lolo can’t imagine living apart.

This trip to China has a double meaning: an opportunity for Audrey to climb the corporate ladder and a way for Lolo to rekindle the spark in their friendship. Lolo’s cousin Deadeye (Wu) and Audrey’s best friend from college, Kat (Hsu), join the duo on their international adventure. After graduation, Kat moved to Beijing to become an actress; she is now loved nationwide and engaged to her TV show costar Clarence (Desmond Chiam). Meanwhile, the introverted and well-meaning Deadeye hopes to connect with other K-pop disciples in Beijing.

The group’s first meeting takes place at a club, where Audrey is trying to keep up with the clients she is courting (more detail on the nature of the critical deal would have aided this plot point). It is in this underexposed and noisy place that the dynamic between the four friends becomes clear: Lolo and Kat are enemies, of course; Deadeye struggles to find a place among the others; and Audrey is too wrapped up in her own problems to notice what’s going on around her.

Like the best quartets in film and TV, the four friends make an unlikely crew, but it’s their differences that make their relationship with each other strangely comforting. Joy Ride balances his irreverent humor – a mix of sex jokes and insider-y, affectionate jokes about stereotypes within the Asian diaspora – with poignancy. Audrey’s client’s intense interest in her family life prompts her to search for her birth mother.

Once you get past the contrived nature of this storyline, Joy Ride takes some surprising and heartwarming twists. The four main characters travel through China – from the city to the suburbs – meeting new friends and old relatives. The film’s sense of humor is enhanced by Lim’s energetic direction – she plays with intimate close-ups and trusts her performers to experiment with their roles – and Chevapravatdumrong and Hsiao’s genuine interest in fleshing out the four friends, giving each of them enough screen time for viewers to identify and root them.

Conversations about representation in Hollywood, with their empty promises, are generally uninspiring. Films with little sense of authenticity are assiduously praised and perpetuated as models, as the scarcity of these stories has left audiences with increasingly lower standards. It then becomes too easy to roll our eyes cynically about the importance of having them in the first place. There was a moment during the Q&A after Joy Ride‘s SXSW premiere as an audience member told his own story as a Chinese adoptee living in the United States. They too had embarked on a similar quest to find their biological mother, and Joy Ride helped them fantasize about the kind of closure they didn’t get in real life. The viewer’s tearful testimony – received by a stunned cast and cheers from the audience – perfectly sums up the performance of Joy Ride.

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