Adele Lim has made a great career as a writer for everything from One Tree Hill to Raya and the Last Dragon, so knowing she was a co-writer for one of the hits to come out of SXSW’s film festival, Joy Ride, intrigued me. To find out that she also directed it as her first foray into that chair was interesting for me to. Add to that the continued trend that I have been on to do my best to go into films as cold as possible led to an experience I was NOT ready for.
Beef co-star Ashley Park plays Audrey, a very successful lawyer who is aiming to make partner by signing a big deal in Beijing. She is adopted and is not fluent in any Chinese dialect, so she brings along her lifelong best friend and aspiring artist Lolo (Sherry Cola) to interpret who also convinces Audrey to look for her birth mother while we are there. Their journey doubles with Lolo’s cousin and loner, Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), as well as Audrey’s college best friend and actor kat (Stephanie Hsu), and what starts out as a simple business trip turns into SO much more.
I like to think that one of the advantages to reviewing films is for people to make sure they go to the right films with the right people for the right reasons. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I also like to put certain things in my reviews so that the audience at large understands what they are in for. I know that seeing the one-sheet for this film makes it look like a best-friends-on-the-road-getting-into-shenanigans film (which it is), but it is also important to understand that this is NOT Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. The script brings a level of comedy that had me laughing out loud more than once, but this film has an “R” rating for A LOT of reasons. To use the words “raunchy comedy” may be an understatement as this foursome gets into a ton of adult situations (some more graphic than others, and for sure is ahead of the curve in that category), so if you have any type of sensibilities towards that type of thing, this is NOT for you. The upside to that is that it is not in here to be shock value that covers up a thinly written story; there is a solid message of friendship and accepting who you are because of who you are here that has a ton of heart.
The four main actors have true chemistry together while truly each shining on their own as well. Each character has a journey of their own that they walk that is enhanced that much more as a part of the main plot of Joy Ride in a way that gives everyone someone they can identify with. There are also some great supporting roles here, highlighted by Meredith Hagner in a hilarious sequence on a bullet train as well as a self-portrayed cameo that I won’t spoil here which also ushers in one of the more graphic sequences that had me both shaking my head and laughing hysterically.
In my comments to our vendor after this film, I wrote that I believe Joy Ride will be a sleeper hit of the season when the summer movie season wraps up around Labor Day. This is a film that can be enjoyed as a “Girls Day/Night Out,” but it is also good for any group of adults to check out and even perhaps plan a “best friends” trip of their own.