“Joy Ride” is anything but ordinary. Adele Lim’s directorial debut uses Teresa Hsiao and Cherry Chevapravatdumrong script to tell a story about four friends who embark on a trip across China. But just as things are about to go smoothly, they soon find themselves on an adventure full of debauchery and self-discovery. So while the raunchy comedy features all of the classic tropes we’d expect to see in an R-rated comedy, the film allows its characters, played by Ashley Park, Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola, and Sabrina Wu, to be unapologetically funny and put a comedic twist on commentary on race and sex through the Asian lens.
ThatsItLA joined their fellow journalists to talk to the cast and crew of “Joy Ride,” where they talked about how “Joy Ride” is the kind of film that they would have liked to have seen in their 20s and the more prominent themes.
In “Joy Ride,” Ashley Park plays Audrey, an adoptee who enlists the aid of Lolo (Sherry Cola), her irreverent childhood best friend, to help be her translator while on a business trip to China. While on their adventure, Kat (Stephanie Hsu), her college friend turned Chinese soap star; and Deadeye (Sabrina Wu), Lolo’s eccentric cousin, also tag along. And soon, what started out as a trip between four friends quickly goes sideways but becomes a journey of self-discovery and finding your chosen family.
“We are this crazy, like super fun, like batshit comedy, but at its heart, like our heart is authentic. And it’s true. And it’s not just about the Asian experience,” Lim said about making “Joy Ride” universal and culturally specific. “One of the things that we explored in the movie, between all the bad jokes and the chlamydia, was when you find your people, you’re always home. And that’s where we landed.”
Park credited Lim, Hsaio and Chevapravatdumrong for guiding them through their smart and witty script and collaboration because that helped propel their story forward. “I think that I always had a chosen family as well. I realize now that chosen family is also you need to know who you are. Because you can’t go about choosing the right way unless you really understand who you are and what you have to give,” she said. “I think this movie or being a part of it and being in Audrey’s shoes really opened up my mind to ‘Oh, I get it, I gotta say and who I want to be in my chosen family.’ And that in itself is incredibly special and important.”
“There was so much trust on set as the base that it felt like a safe space to play around and find so much magic in the heat of the moment,” Cola said. “We just saw eye to eye in so many ways. It’s just a language that you don’t have to learn.”
Though there was some worry that the comedy and content might not reach certain audiences, Hsu believes that “Joy Ride” acknowledges the first-generation and immigrant experience in a reverent and humorous way. “I do think when it comes to immigrant families, there’s cultural tendencies towards being more conservative or muted,” Hsu said. “But I think a lot of that came from immigrants making sure that they were safe. I think that came from a place of defense mechanism and keep your head down, do good work, so that you can thrive, survive, be safe, and make it in this country.”
“This movie is about a lot of things. But why this movie is awesome is, yeah, we’re Asian people. But we are full humans. And I think that generosity should be extended to our parents and our grandparents,” Wu said. “It’s so easy to put the entire population of immigrants, which is a large group of people, and be like, ‘yeah, they’re all conservative.’ And it’s like, ‘no, they’re gonna love this film.”
“They’re only working hard and maybe come across conservative, or maybe you’ve come across a certain way because they’re hoping that they can work hard enough so their kids and so on can have the opportunity to laugh as hard as they can maybe weren’t, didn’t have the time or energy to,” Park said. “Our hope is that this is a release for everybody.”
“Joy Ride” is a raunchy R-rated comedy seen through the Asian lens, but Hsaio and Chevapravatdumrong wanted to subvert a lot of those tropes you’d expect to see in a film full of debauchery by being sex and body positive while also being unapologetically funny. “Sex jokes are funny. We put them in because we enjoy them. “I think, for a lot of R-rated comedies that you’ve seen before, oftentimes, they’ve been male-led. Oftentimes female sexuality is played for sexiness, whereas male sexuality and male nudity are played for laughs,” And we kind of did the opposite here,” Hsaio said. “We definitely wanted to play female sexuality for laughs as well. There is a commentary that this is something that you haven’t seen before. Please enjoy it. Please, please laugh at our bodies as well. Thank you.”
“We want to try to move in with our crazy movie is that women are allowed to be raunchy and disgusting and sexy and sexual on their own terms,” Chevapravatdumrong said. And that they’re doing this on their own terms.”
“Joy Ride” opens in theaters on July 7, 2023.