Take a ‘Joy Ride’ around our cinemas this August
One of the sexiest films of the year has arrived. Hanna Flint reveals all the reasons you should book in to see it at our screening rooms now
Saturday 5 August 2023 By Hanna Flint
If you’d have told me that 2023 would see the release of two women-led films about sex and finding themselves in East Asia, I would have rolled my eyes. Yet, just a few months after Return To Seoul – Davy Chou’s sexy and soulful meditation on identity – hit cinemas, Joy Ride has arrived and it’s one of the sexiest films of the year.
There is no shortage of sex comedies focused on male protagonists. From Revenge Of The Nerds to Superbad, the sexual pleasure of women has rarely been the end goal in these hyper-heterosexual sojourns of nerds and nice guys. But in recent years, women filmmakers have been claiming space in the mainstream for the fairer sex to get their rocks off on the silver screen, too. Blockers, Girls Trip, Booksmart, Yes, God, Yes and Good Luck To You, Leo Grande are a few excellent offerings that spring to mind. But Joy Ride has shot to the top of that list, thanks to the calamitous sexcapades of three Asian-American women we get to delight in.
From the very first meet-cute flashback of two Asian-American girls becoming best friends, it was clear the filmmakers were going to rip up the rulebook for women with this particular heritage. Lolo (Sherry Cola) swears in the face of racism as a child and continues to be just as brash, bold and unapologetic as an adult trying to make a name for herself as a sex-positive artist. With a long history of Asian women being fetishised and exoticised through Western films, animation and pornographic media, here director Adele Lim (with screenwriters Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao) is unabashedly reclaiming sexual autonomy and putting it into the hands of nonconformist characters like Lolo. Cola’s sharp and droll delivery makes for an excellent odd couple scenario opposite Ashley Park’s model immigrant, Audrey.
Adopted by white well-meaning parents, Audrey is a somewhat anxious, ‘play by the rules’ lawyer whose disconnection from her Asian identity has fuelled a need to overachieve. Park maintains a cheery demeanour in the face of workplace microaggressions or jabs (not always unfounded) at her lack of Asianness. At other times, she showcases the unpleasantness of Audrey’s internalised racism with shrewd, entitled affectation.
When an important business trip to China comes up, the two besties – plus Kat (Stephanie Hsu), an actress and Audrey’s college friend, and Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), Lolo’s non-binary cousin – embark on a haphazard mission across the country to find Audrey’s birth mother. There’s a rambunctious randomness to the scenarios these pals end up in, something akin to The Hangover where the plot swerves into the boggling but no less entertaining. The further they travel, the more brutal discoveries these friends learn about their relationships to themselves, each other and to the sexual needs they may not be meeting.
It’s not surprising that filmmakers with credits on Crazy Rich Asians, Family Guy and Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens would so playfully and explicitly thrust orgasmic themes into a story overflowing with punchlines, sight gags and cringe humour. But these jokes wouldn’t land without a cast more than willing to play the fool. They throw themselves enthusiastically into K-pop dance numbers and raucous sex scenes involving threesomes, sex toys and intimate tattoos.
Hsu, who is no stranger to battling with a dildo, is the most potent. She’s a woman who’s on the verge of an orgasmic breakdown, thanks to her pent-up sexual frustration from playing the virginal good girl to her celibate fiancé Clarence, played by Desmond Chiam. He, along with Alexander Hodge and Chris Pang, play their deliberately objectified roles well, debunking the Western assertion that Asian men can’t be desirable, by playing sexy, hypermasculine basketball players.
Life’s a riot and this lot are leaving a trail of destruction in their wake – it’s not all sh*ts and giggles, though. There’s a simmering tension between these friends. And the whackier this adventure gets, the quicker the niceties wear off to decidedly cutting ends. But there’s still an emotional heartbeat that quickens in a final act of grappling with Audrey’s identity and complicity in her own failures.
The balance between the film’s heart, humour and hard truths could have used a bit more fine-tuning, but as a first feature for Lim, Joy Ride shows what you can achieve when you have exquisite chemistry on screen and rowdy writers behind the scenes.
Visit our screenings page to find out where you can watch Joy Ride and see our full film schedule at the Houses.