Opening 24 Aug 2023
When Audrey (Ashley Park), an Asian-American lawyer, must go to Beijing to close a business deal, she brings along her childhood best friend Lolo (Sherry Cola) as her translator. The two friends have grown up to be very different—Lolo is an artist who makes explicit sex-positive artworks and lives in Audrey’s basement, while Audrey is successful and on track to become a partner in her law firm—but as girls they bonded over being the only Asian-Americans in their very white American town. As part of the trip, Audrey wants to connect with her old college friend Kat (Stephanie Hsu), who has become a famous actress in China. At the last moment, Lolo invites her quirky cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) along for what turns into a crazy road trip. And in the vein of many road trip movies, at the heart of this comedy are a lot of raunchy shenanigans and convoluted plot twists that test the women and their friendship.
What sets Joy Ride apart from the usual “buddies on the road getting into trouble” movie is the all-female Asian-American cast, and how the script highlights and then dispels stereotypes about Asian woman and members of the Asian diaspora. The movie can be very funny; a hilarious bit about Korean pop (K-pop) bands is simultaneously silly and smart. But at other times the movie feels so aggressively irreverent and insistently naughty—in all senses of the word—that it can feel boringly repetitive in its insistence that these women are living their best lives. There’s a lot to like here, from clever self-referential comments about the importance of Asian representation and digs about inter-Asian discrimination, to a scene that shows how much extra work Audrey has to do to prove her professional place as a woman of color surrounded by white bros, to the endless positive vibes around sex, sexuality, gender, and finding out who you truly are while having a great time with your girlfriends. There are also hilarious performances: Sabrina Wu had me in stitches with their deadpan portrayal of Deadeye and Sherry Cola was an endless boss lady. But ultimately I found Joy Ride to be strangely tedious and trying too hard to be outrageous to effectively incorporate the sincere part of the story, which feels tacked on as an awkward afterthought. (Diana Schnelle)