Tag Archives: Stephanie Hsu

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.

All the Small Things

Everything Everywhere All at Once

by Hope Madden

The Daniels do not make ordinary films. In fact, they tend to make extraordinary films. While their charming 2016 fantasy Swiss Army Man slipped toward sentimentality, Daniel Scheinert’s remarkable 2019 solo follow up The Death of Dick Long did not.


Co-director Dan Kwan and his brand of sweet-natured lunacy are back for the duo’s big, big new effort Everything Everywhere All at Once. The result is an endlessly engaging, funny, tender, surprising, touching maelstrom of activity and emotion.

Michelle Yeoh is Evelyn Wang, and today is not her day. She has to meet an IRS auditor (Jamie Lee Curtis, priceless) about the lien on the coin laundromat she owns with her “silly husband” (Ke Huy Quan, nice to see you!). Meanwhile, she’s planning a big party for her judgmental curmudgeon of a father (James Hong, amazing). Instead of helping, her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is clearly planning to come out of the closet. Today, of all days.

And then the multiverse shows up.

This is a hard movie not to love.

The Daniels find the absurd in the ordinary, wring emotion from the most mundane moments, and manage to create something adorable even when really large items are entering or hanging from — I don’t even know how to end that sentence.

On an unrelated note (I swear to God, it’s unrelated), what they do with hotdogs is inspired.

At the heart of the insanity lurks a spot-on depiction of a midlife crisis, and Michelle Yeoh’s depiction of that crisis is revelatory. The formidable veteran brings physical prowess and nuanced drama to the screen, as you might expect. She’s also really funny, but that wouldn’t be nearly enough to hold this manic experience together. Yeoh convinces while Evelyn arcs as no character has arced before.

Curtis, Hong, Hsu and Quan all provide excellent support in role after role after role. The real stars are the Daniels, though, who borrow and recast and repurpose without even once delivering something derivative.