To Thy Own Self Be A H*: Our Review of ‘Joy Ride’ (2023)

Posted in Theatrical by - July 06, 2023
To Thy Own Self Be A H*: Our Review of ‘Joy Ride’ (2023)

There’s at least a ten minute segment in Adele Lim’s Joy Ride where it introduces its two lead characters, Audrey and Lolo. As the only Chinese-American kids in a Seattle suburb, they are are the only people who can cheer each other on as they take slightly different academic paths. The film, then, zips into present day, as adult Audrey (Ashley Park) is a lawyer trying to get a promotion in her law firm, and Lolo is a starving artist. One of the ways Audrey needs to get that promotion is to land a Chinese client, which Lolo this is also a perfect way for Audrey to meet her birth mother. At the airport, both find out that they have two unlikely companions.

Joy Ride then introduces those two companions. The first is Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), Lolo’s awkward cousin, and they’re meeting the last person in this trip in Beijing, Kat (Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu), Audrey’s college best friend who does not get along well with Lolo. A lot of the key scenes in this film take place in airports, trains, etc. Interviews reveal that the film’s original title was Joy F*ck Club, but Planes Trains and Ho-tomobiles is equally apt. The gang go from Beijing to Haiqing to go to Audrey’s adoption agency. And along the way, they get into a lot of raunchy hijinks that will also make each character question themselves.

Joy Ride is one of many recent movies and shows that deal with Asian proximity to whiteness. And for the most part, it effectively pokes fun at that trend. Audrey grows up with white parents (Annie Mumolo and David Denman). And she subconsciously prefers to be in white workplaces and share spaces with other white people. That preference bites her when she chooses to share a train car with a white woman in Beijing. That woman turns out to be a drug dealer who tries to implicate the gang on her crime. The film uses that social commentary only for it to make Audrey and the gang do drugs. But then again drug use, in this context, is hilarious.

Audrey, Lolo, and the gang, in some ways, fit Asian stereotypes, but they also, while making us laugh, embody many things that rmeind viewers of the expansive, nuanced Asian character. All four of them have distinct looks. That said, some of them can still have hot Asian boyfriends (Desmond Chiam) and all of them can bag hot Asian hookups (including Chris Pang). All six, in one way or another, are in Joy Ride’s courtship and sex montage. That montage, by the way, pales in comparison to anything DW Griifith and Sergei Eisenstein ever created. That’s worth the price of admission. Finally, there’s the K-Pop scene is, which ends in one of the best ways a musical number can.

Watch Joy Ride in a theatre near you.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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