Feeling like you’re stuck between the “Asian” and the “American” is not a new concept in mainstream comedies. “Crazy Rich Asians” touched on this back in 2018. But even so, those ideas are wrapped around the premise of a wedding, of having to impress your potential in-laws. With “Joy Ride,” much of the existential crises in Audrey resides in internal conflicts that are far too relatable for this Asian American, from feeling like you have to prove yourself at all times to just wanting to be known for your talents and passion rather than your background.
But the MVP of “Joy Ride”’s cast is Sabrina Wu, who plays the quirky, quiet and sweet Deadeye, Lolo’s cousin who tags along for the trip. Wu’s Deadeye is potentially the funniest member of the central quad while also being the most sincere of the group. Their passion for Kpop is an incredibly entertaining avenue to explore, and their shy personality is such a welcomed juxtaposition to the other characters. Plus, their character is endlessly earnest, and they play that kind of delicate introspection so well.
While shows like “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Awkwafina is Nora from Queens” explore the Asian American experience in the US, “Joy Ride” stands apart by having its characters travel to China and eventually South Korea. This cultural immersion is challenging for Audrey because she feels as though she doesn’t belong anywhere. She is too Asian for America and too White for Asia. This struggle is one of the many important and relatable experiences featured in the film. Each writer and actor brought aspects of their own personal experiences to the story and used improv several times while filming, which heightens the emotion and inclusive narrative to make it that much more genuine.