By Erin Chew
It all started when three friends- Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians, Raya and the Last Dragon), Cherry Chevapravatdumrong (Family Guy) and Teresa Hsiao (Awkwafina is Nora from Queens), caught up casually one day a few years back over drinks and decided to write a film celebrating friendship and belonging with a naughty twist.
At the LA Premiere for Joy Ride on June 26, Lim thanked the cast and crew who helped make the film a reality and Lionsgate for backing the film, and recounted the initial conceptualization stage to show how far they had come.
“We can’t believe a film we (Chevapravatdumrong and Hsiao) spoke about at one of our places a few years back over drinks is now a reality. We all agreed we wanted to write and direct a film we as Asian American women and friends wanted to see on screen- celebrating friendship and identity, but with a lot of comedy and sexual innuendos”, Lim proudly expressed.
Starring Sherry Cola as Lolo, Ashley Park as Audrey, Stephanie Hsu as Kat and Sabrina Wu as Deadeye (Lolo’s cousin), Joy Ride is about four unlikely friends traveling abroad in search of identity and self discovery. Its relevance comes from the Asian American perspectives and it’s references to Asian cultural specificities. Its uniqueness comes from how unapologetically explicit, raunchy and openly sexual the storyline is.
Cleverly written, with no filters, Joy Ride is one of those films which will make audiences laugh, cringe and feel seen all at the same time. This was the sentiment echoed by Chevapravatdumrong and Lim at a recent press interview AsAmNews participated in.
“I think those sort of Trojan horses that we want to move in with our crazy movie is that women are allowed to be raunchy and disgusting and sexy and sexual and that they’re doing this on their own terms. It is also about showing that as Asians we too identify differently with our given genders and that we are not just a stereotype”, Chevapravatdumrong discussed.
“We are a crazy, super fun and batshit comedy. Bur at its heart, like our heart the story is authentic. A movie needs to allow the audience to feel different emotions and I think we have done that. As Asian women we are sexual, but we are not sexual for anyone else but for ourselves”, Lim said.
Similarly for Cola, working on the film was liberating because of how open and unfiltered the script was. But also, it was Asian women, leading, making decisions and mutually understanding how certain scenes were to happen. She mentioned the importance of trust all across the board which allowed her to build chemistry with her co-stars, with those working behind the scenes, to be herself when playing Lolo and acting as an unapologetic character.
“I do want to bring it back to the trust. You know, with these badass three Asian women being our queens and our guiding light (referring to Lim, Chevapravatdumrong and Hsiao), allowing us as actors to be ourselves on screen. 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. We just saw eye to eye in so many ways. It’s just a language that you don’t have to learn,” Cola mentioned.
As mentioned earlier, the underlying themes for the film is friendship, finding one’s true identity and being able to choose who is considered family. These points were major reflections for Park who plays Audrey – an adoptee, who excelled academically as a way to make up for her own identity issues. Park spoke about how playing and understanding Audrey allowed her to be more open to different perspectives on what family means.
“I realize now that chosen family is about knowing 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. I think being part of this movie and being in Audrey’s shoes, has 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.”
Like many films which touch on finding one’s identity and family, the topic of immigrant parents and the lengths they would go to sacrifice for their family comes up. Wu, who plays Deadeye, touched on this topic during their interview, and mentioned that the idea that immigrant Asian families are conservative is a stereotype which has been concocted to categorize Asian immigrant parents/families. This is a stereotype Joy Ride has broken and for them that is a reason why they appreciate being part of this project.
“This movie is about a lot of things. But why this movie is awesome is that its a statement saying: we’re Asian people, but we are full humans. Our immigrant parents and our surroundings make up who we are and for that generosity should be extended to our parents and our grandparents. It’s so easy to put the entire population of Asian immigrants, as being all conservative, and this film breaks this down and throws out this stereotype”, Wu mentioned.
Hsu, who was an Oscar nominee for her characters of Joy Wang and Jobu Topaki from Everything, Everywhere All at Once, and plays Kat in Joy Ride agreed with what Wu mentioned about immigrant families, but added more context that the category/stereotype that Asian immigrant families are conservative started from a good place and that it was all about Asian immigrants creating their own safe space.
She said that it is the mis-interpretation of this stereotype which has made Asian Americans/diaspora being seen as the other, perpetual foreigners and ultra conservatives. Her hope is that for Asian American/diaspora audiences watching Joy Ride, that idea can be transformed to one where Asian families are seen as just humans who have transformed beyond a stereotype.
“I do think when it comes to immigrant families, there is cultural tendencies towards being more conservative or muted. But I think a lot of that came from immigrants, making sure that they were safe and a form of defense mechanism. Our communities have changed beyond this now. We are seeing generations who are born/raised in countries outside of Asia, such as the US, and we are not conservative and we like a bit of naughty! This is what this film demonstrates. It also tells audiences that where we still believe in Confucius values, we are not traditionalists, and we can be funny, weird and crazy”, Hsu expressed.
In addition to the main cast, Joy Ride also stars Ronny Chieng as Chao, Desmond Chiam as Clarence, Chris Pang as Kenny, Alexander Hodge as Todd, Rohain Arora as Arvind, Debbie Fan as Jenny Chen, Kenneth Liu as Wey Chen (Lolo’s parents), Lori Tan Chinn as Nai Nai Chen (Lolo and Deadeye’s grandmother), Annie Mumolo as Mary Sullivan and David Denman as Joe Sullivan ( Audrey’s adoptive parents) among others.
Joy Ride will be officially released in theaters across the US on July 7, 2023.
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