Tag Archives: Sherry Cola

Sane, Financially Insecure Asians


by Hope Madden

Shortcomings, the feature directorial debut from Randall Park, wants to know what you thought about Crazy Rich Asians.

Did you celebrate it as a massive commercial and critical success that centered in every respect on Asians? Did you see it as a much-needed splash of representation? Or were you unable to see past its mediocre, formulaic fairy tale “money actually does fix everything” themes?

Or could you just be happy that, although it was not a very good film, its massive success opened up opportunities that did not exist before for Asian artists?

Ben (Justin H. Min, After Yang) is the second (hated it). No surprise, Ben hates everything because Ben is an asshole. He offers withering opinions of everyone and everything, so his girlfriend Miko (Ally Maki) isn’t surprised when he decides not to accompany her to New York for her internship.

Actually, she didn’t invite him.

Park’s film, based on Adrian Tomine’s insightful adaptation of his own graphic novel, does the extraordinary – thanks in large part to Min’s spectacular lead performance. They center 90 minutes of our lives around a thoroughly unlikeable protagonist and make us enjoy it.

Min haunted the liltingly lovely After Yang with a devastatingly tender performance. Ben is not Yang, and Min proves nimble with a character who has so little to offer and yet manages to compel interest throughout the tale, though he extends little energy to do it.

A spot-on ensemble helps him out, perhaps because Min reveals Ben so thoughtfully through his interactions with these characters, and partly because the minor characters are so intriguing.

Sherry Cola, hot off her hilarious turn in Joy Ride, is Alice, Ben’s equally acerbic best friend. Tavi Gevinson is inspired as the starving artist pixie Autumn adored by Ben and all the employees at the crumbling movie theater he manages. Sonoya Mizuno (Ex-Machina) and Debby Ryan also pop in for a few scenes of excellent work, while Jacob Batalon (Pete’s best friend in the new SpiderMan movies) gets to make a funny line about Spider-Man while Timothy Simons is a stitch as Miko’s new beau.

It’s smart humor, one that recognizes the defensiveness and fear at the heart of Ben’s disdain for anything that swings for the fences, and for anyone who puts themselves in the vulnerable position to try and fail.

And without succumbing to schmaltz in any measure, Shortcomings asks whether Ben – whether any of us cynics – can just move from Crazy Rich Asians viewer #2 to #3. Not because it was good, but because it opened the door for Shortcomings.

There’s No Going Home

Joy Ride

by Hope Madden

Adele Lim’s Joy Ride puts the R in raunchy comedy, but beneath a by-the-numbers R-rated roadtrip is a smart, irreverent, confident tale about owning your identity.

The film opens on Day 1 of the friendship between Audrey & Lolo in the funniest comeuppance scene since the 1993 Thanksgiving pageant at Wednesday Addams’s summer camp. The two are fast friends, even though Audrey (Ashley Park) is ambitious, applied, and constantly proving herself while Lolo (Sherry Cola) makes sex positive art instead of working in her parents’ Chinese restaurant.

But Audrey is about to make partner and move to LA, while Lolo is still living in Audrey’s garage, getting high, making art and enjoying dick.

It’s a phrase you should definitely get used to.

Though Lolo is not the film’s centerpiece, the way the character upends stereotypes about women generally and about Asian women specifically is part of the film’s success. Lim and co-writers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao use the beats of a familiar story to undermine its relatively misogynistic history. Joy Ride is more than just smart, racially savvy, sexually open and foul mouthed.

It’s funny.

Park is an excellent vehicle for both the core idea of claiming your identity and the necessary schmaltz at the heart of any raunchy comedy. But she is not carrying the comedic burden. Leave that to Cola and Audrey’s other two travel companions, Deadeye (Sabrina Wu, hilarious) and Kat (Stephanie Hsu, hello glorious!).

The commentary on microaggressions, aggressive aggression, all manner of racism, and glass ceilings feels honest, sometimes brave, often borderline (and joyously) lewd.

Don’t be confused. The plot itself is dumb as hell. It’s a roadtrip (well, it’s more of a globe trot) as the four pals travel through China to support Audrey as she lands the big client that will mean a big promotion. Hijinks do what they do best, they ensue.

Not every wild situation lands. Each emotional climax feels destined, obvious. But somehow, even well-worn tropes feel revolutionary when claimed by a filmmaking team (director, all writers, all leads) of nothing but Asian women.