“If you do not know where you come from, how can you know who are?”Chao
Adele Lim’s directorial debut is a cross between Crazy Rich Asians (Lim co-wrote the screenplay) and Bridesmaids, taking the latter’s female-led crude comedy whilst fully embracing the Chinese diaspora. An opening montage compresses the childhood of best friends Audrey and Lolo into a few well-observed minutes about the lives of Asian children growing up in the USA, and Audrey’s additional awkwardness having been adopted from China by (very loving) white parents. Once Audrey is sent to close a deal in China by her boss (a hapless white man determined to be seen as an “ally”), Joy Ride takes on a refreshingly anarchic tone, and its humour — from smart social satire to stupidly chaotic disaster — is frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Like Bridesmaids, there is predictable gross-out humour that feels dated, but there is also surprisingly creative sex comedy with a boldly female perspective. Releasing alongside Barbie this summer, there is an unexpected parallel in that at their core both films are about personal identity — in Joy Ride each of the four friends has tried to forge an identity that is shown to be, in differing ways, an artifice. As these friendships become strained, Joy Ride wants take on a more emotional tone. Unfortunately, like most comedies that seek serious conclusions, there is a hollowness to the manufactured melodrama and we are too distanced from these caricatures for it to land. It might be all about the ride rather than the destination, but in this case it’s a riotous roller-coaster that eventually goes off the rails.