Recap of Joy Ride with Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola at SXSW in Austin
Just a year ago, an aspiring actress named Stephanie Hsu walked the red carpet for a film called Everything Everywhere All at Once at South by Southwest. It shot out of the festival like a googly-eyed cannonball and became one of the highest-grossing Oscar-winning films of all time.
On Friday, Hsu returned to Austin’s Paramount Theater as the People’s Princess, walking the red carpet as a Best Supporting Actress nominee and a Proven Actress whose next step is eagerly awaited. (Do you have see them in “everything everywhere”? The lady can do everything.)
Next thing – on the release schedule, if not on their production timeline – is director Adele Lim’s dirty and hilarious “Joy Ride,” which had its world premiere on Friday for the SXSW Film & TV Festival.
Much like “Everything Everywhere” garnered storied awards for a mostly Asian cast, the cast and creatives of “Joy Ride” were overflowing with pride in their film. As co-star Sherry Cola put it, it’s the first time the world has seen an R-rated buddy comedy in the vein of “The Hangover” or “Bridesmaids” starring four Asian women.
Here’s what you need to know about the excellent Joy Ride before it hits theaters on June 23.
“Bridesmaids” is a good reference point, but “Joy Ride” is a beautiful beast in its own right.
You know that subgenre of American comedy: a gang of friends, usually brought together by a common link, embark on a life event that should be uneventful, only to encounter an escalating series of incidents that are usually contain profanity. illegal substances and probably nudity. Why yes, Seth Rogen did executive producer “Joy Ride”; Why do you ask?
In Lim’s film, written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao, a business trip to China turns into a girl’s trip full of excessive confusion. Audrey (Ashley Park) and Lolo (Cola) grew up together in an all-white small town in America; Audrey was adopted by a white couple from China as a baby while Lolo’s family immigrated to America. The lifelong best friends are complete opposites, Audrey an ambitious lawyer and Lolo a ravenous artist whose artworks usually involve genitals.
To seal a deal for her company, Audrey must fly to China and land a potential partner (Ronny Chieng). But since she doesn’t speak Mandarin, she asks Lolo to come along and translate. Lolo hopes they can take the opportunity to track down Audrey’s birth mother, but her friend is reluctant to do so until it becomes clear that this is the best way to close the deal.
A big task. Add Lolo’s socially awkward cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu) and Audrey’s college bestie turned Chinese TV star Kat (Hsu) and you have the makings of an international incident.
Oh, and throw in a men’s basketball team, a backpack full of drugs, four lost passports, a secret vaginal tattoo, and a really great K-pop number, and you’ve got a real joy ride.
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Don’t take your kids to see “Joy Ride” and don’t take your parents unless you’re in a really progressive relationship.
In a Q&A after the film during Friday’s screening, Park’s parents, who appeared to have been in the audience at the premiere, were excused. Hopefully they appreciate dirt as much as the other guys because “Joy Ride” doesn’t pull any punches. It actually lands a few that you wouldn’t even expect human civilization to know how to throw.
We’re talking about a merry all-star sex montage. We’re talking about a visual punchline that involves full frontal nudity – and, uh, full inner nudity? We’re talking about one of the funniest movie lines of the new year, in which Hsu’s Bougie actress tries to remove a bag of contraband drugs from her rectum in the middle of a rural field.
Your mileage may vary depending on Raunch’s onslaught; For fans of such things, it will be an ever escalating craze.
Also, it’s not all private parts. Chevapravatdumrong and Hsiao’s pens are sharp and add plenty of clever gags to “Joy Ride”. Witness Deadeye cheating on a kid named Bao Bao at a game of cards and a scene where Park reveals her best idea of flirting by making her impression of Gollum. Sometimes the rhythm stutters a bit to balance the wit and the weird, but never deadly.
Did we mention the fully realized K-pop number? Stan Brownie Tuesday for clear skin. Name me another two member idol group named Lisa.
A comedy like this lives and dies from its cast, and Joy Ride lives.
Cola said on the red carpet that she hopes audiences will go home and think of the film’s quartet like the Sex and the City ladies. Are you a kat or a lolo? Oh no, you’re a total deadeye. I, well, I’m an Audrey and I know it.
The four main actors each take their comedy archetype and execute it flawlessly. Park’s uncool nerd makes a good POV character, and Wu’s deadeye picks up on the weirdo coat that Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon wore so beautifully in similar films.
It’s so satisfying to know that Hsu’s talent is now on the world’s radar – have you seen the TikToks of her previous TV appearances that have been underappreciated? “Joy Ride” gives her so much to play with, from high-sounding theatrics to deeply undignified physical comedy featuring an exercise bike and a massage gun. The film also lets her, crucially, get cozy with two incredibly handsome men, and that’s good for her.
But the shiniest gem of “Joy Ride” is Coke, period. Hers is a star-making turn of events: The veteran comedienne gets to crack jokes and pull cups (including a memorable moment with her mouth). Cola is the pacemaker; While Park’s character is the fish-on-water protagonist, it’s Lolo whose emotional beats the audience follows, from insane confidence to truly heartfelt pain. Put Coke in any movie instantly.
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This movie means something.
As the film crew pointed out at SXSW, this is a milestone in studio comedy. The story also blossoms as you watch a sensitive exploration of identity and family. Chieng’s character asks Park early on: how do you know who you are if you don’t know where you’re from? Joy Ride gracefully – and at its emotional peak tearfully – explores the many possible answers to that question. Perhaps most clearly, Lim’s film says: whoever you love, and whoever loves you, can be your home.