The feature directorial debut of Adele Lim, Joy Ride follows high-flying lawyer Audrey (Ashley Park) and eccentric artist Lolo (Sherry Cola), two Asian-American women who have been best friends since childhood in their very white neighbourhood. To secure a business deal for Audrey’s firm, the duo set off to China in search of Audrey’s birth mother, accompanied by Lolo’s cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) and Audrey’s college friend Kat (Stephanie Hsu). However, things quickly escalate for the four women, sending them on a wild journey across Asia.
Joy Ride is an unashamedly crass piece, with dirty jokes and rowdy, raunchy set pieces. This is part of the flick’s charm and a key part of its central themes, and though its off-colour comedy might put some moviegoers off the experience its comedy is generally done quite well, managing to be risqué without being offensive or juvenile. While not every gag lands, Joy Ride hits more than it misses. Critically, although there are a lot of jokes, they get the time and space they need to land properly and give the audience time to take them in.
What makes the film’s comedy work especially well is that every joke is bolstered and balanced by strong character work and a sincere narrative core. The four leading ladies are fun to watch, with compelling character arcs that feed into each other and inform the overarching theses of the flick, with the comedy enhancing and developing their dynamics. For every scene where a character hides cocaine in various orifices, there’s another where they explore complex cultural identities, and both types of scene are equally effective and important for the story the movie is trying to tell.
Joy Ride balances many dissonant ideas and tones, and does so thanks to the hard work of its immensely talented cast, who perfectly match the narrative beats of the piece. The actors are able to go from silly and dirty to emotional and introspective at the drop of a hat, and demonstrate great chemistry with each other, adding additional layers to their various interactions.
Overall, Joy Ride is a fantastic time, effortlessly balancing a variety of themes, ideas and emotions to create a rich and engaging cinematic experience. Its unique brand of comedy won’t land with everyone, but audience members willing to engage with its unabashedly provocative stylings are in for – well, a joy ride.
Joy Ride is released nationwide on 4th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for Joy Ride here: