Adele Lim - screenwriter on CRAZY RICH ASIANS and RAYA AND THE LAST DRAGON - returns to our screens with a raunchy comedy that reads like an Asian remake of BRIDESMAIDS. Four Asian-Americans go on a holiday to China, have a bunch of sex, take a bunch of drugs, and wrestle with their identities. The comedy is crude, the plotting very much tab A into slot B, complete with third act falling out and fourth act resolution. There is nothing surprising here but it was quite funny, if in a deeply, deeply crude way.
The central protagonist is Emily in Paris' Ashley Park playing model minority adopted daughter Audrey. She is sent on a business trip to China to land a new client largely because of her ethnicity. The joke is that she is culturally white, has never dated an Asian, and evinces no interest in finding her Chinese birth mother. That's where her culturally-assertive, aspiring-artist best-friend Lolo (Sherry Cola) comes in. The third wheel on the holiday is Sabrina Wu's Deadeye - a genderqueer "weird" friend who comes closer than any other character to showing emotional vulnerability as a loner who finds community in K-Pop. And when they get to China they hook up with Ashley's college roommate Kat, played by EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE's Stephanie Hsu. She's now a Chinese soap-star, hiding her sex-positive past from her hunky Christian boyfriend.
There's lots of good stuff in this film about the pressures of being a model minority, and the experience of being both not quite American and yet also not quite Chinese - at home in neither and longing for acceptance in both. We also get a really nuanced take on racism. Sure, Audrey's boss sent her to China because of her race, which is racist, but then again, what's up with Audrey not dating Asians, and the girls feeling safer in a train carriage with an American woman?
I just felt the social commentary was undercut by the deeply predictable plotting and crude humour. Your mileage on that may vary.
JOYRIDE has a running time of 95 minutes and is rated R in the USA and 15 in the UK. JOY RIDE played SXSW 2023 and was released in the USA last month. It was released in the UK this week.