Joy Ride Review

Friday 4 August 2023

Plot: Follows four Asian American friends as they bond and discover the truth of what it means to know and love who you are, while they travel through China in search of one of their birth mothers.

Film: Joy Ride

Director: Adele Lim

Writers: Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, Teresa Hsiao, Adele Lim

Starring: Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu

Audrey (Ashley Park) and Lolo (Sherry Cola) have been best friends since childhood and even twenty years later they’re still as close as anyone could be, especially given one of them is living in the others backyard annex. A promising business deal for Audrey’s law firm leads her to visiting China for the first time since she was adopted from there as a baby and Lolo, having been raised by Chinese parents, is tagging along as a translator in the hopes of turning the trip into a search for Audrey’s birth mother. Throw in awkward cousin ‘Deadeye’ (Sabrina Wu) and old college roommate Cat (Stephanie Hsu) and you have a full-blown girl’s trip for this emotionally charged comedy. 

Something I really enjoyed about this film was that there doesn’t seem to be a line that the writers haven’t crossed, it’s crude but in a way that’s sex positive, especially in regard to the sex lives of twenty-something women, it’s handled in a way that that isn’t unlike what you would expect from a film centred around four male leads. Joy Ride challenges these conventions in a way that’s fun and had the audience genuinely laughing out loud at multiple points throughout the ninety-five-minute runtime. 

The film also isn’t afraid to go from sex references and heavy drug use to emotional scenes of self-discovery and the poignant climax to Audrey’s journey to find where she came from. Daniel Dae Kim’s cameo as the husband of Audrey’s birth mother is nothing short of perfect, his acting opposite Ashley Park is especially tender in such a raucous film that I found myself quite unprepared for it and I even shed a few tears. Something I’d like to see from more films is being unafraid to be both silly and serious, we’re all complex people and I know I’m not the only one who would appreciate that type of genre blend more.

Stephanie Hsu, who co-starred in Everything Everywhere All At Once, categorically stole the show for me as Audrey’s friend from college, Cat, who is now a popular actress in China. Her celibate engagement to gorgeous fellow actor Clarence (Desmond Chiam) conflicts with her considerably non-celibate early twenties, which ends with her having some very understandable emotions about her relationship throughout the film. Cat has some of the best lines in the film and Stephanie Hsu’s delivery, much like in Everything Everywhere, is faultless and I can’t wait to see whatever she does next. 

In what has rightly been an already excellent year for female-led endeavours, Joy Ride was an outright joy to watch and a film I know will become a regular choice when it makes its way to streaming. A great choice for a film night with friends or if you need to have a little self-reflection, complete with laughter and tears.  

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