Directed by Adele Lim, Joy Ride (2023) follows the story of Audrey and her quest for self-discovery and a deeper connection to her cultural roots when her business trip to Asia takes a dramatic turn. Accompanying her are three friends: Lolo, Deadeye, and Kat – each with eccentric personalities. The journey to Asia transforms from a mere work trip into an adventurous girls’ getaway, where they all experience friendship in a way they had never imagined before.

For those seeking a laughter-filled experience with a surprising dose of eccentricity, this movie promises to deliver. However, while it provides a fun time, it falls short of fully addressing ethnicity and Asian cultural roots in a meaningful way. Nevertheless, the film offers a unique blend, akin to a milder version of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” mixed with the chaotic misadventures of “Rough Night” and “The Hangover.”

*Spoiler Alert*

Joy Ride (2023) Movie Synopsis & Plot Summary:

Joy Ride opens with an introduction to how Lolo and Audrey became friends for the first time due to their Asian heritage. On one hand, Lolo and her parents moved to the city from California, on the other hand, Audrey was adopted by her American parents. The two girls are inseparable, and over the years, we see a montage where Audrey works hard and grows up to become a successful lawyer, while Lolo is convinced that her ‘expressive’ artwork that includes creating things that resonate with sexual desire is going to take her places.

During one of her usual squash practices with her boss, Audrey gets assigned to travel to Beijing, China, in order to finalize a deal for her law firm. While celebrating the news with the family, Audrey’s parents open a box of old memories that includes an old photograph of baby Audrey with her birth mother. When Lolo points out that the adoption center details are mentioned behind the photo, Audrey dismisses the idea of connecting with the agency, saying she is more American than Chinese. She also reminds Lolo that the trip is for work purposes only, and getting the deal finalized is the only thing she would like to focus on.

We then see Lolo and Audrey at the airport, where Lolo’s cousin Deadeye – a big K-pop fan, joins them. Once they reach China, Audrey is excited to meet her college friend Kat Huang, a popular Chinese TV actress. While Lolo is not fond of Kat, she is intrigued by her eccentric lifestyle choices and a particular tattoo that Audrey had casually mentioned.

Upon meeting Kat at her TV show set, the three are surprised to learn that Kat is dating the famous and really hot co-star Clarence. However, they are shocked to find out that Kat has never been sexual with her partner because he is religious and ‘saving it’ for later when they get married. Lolo points out Kat’s glory days when she would go bananas about dating life; however, Kat pretends in front of Clarence, saying she is completely pious and devoted to him.

Why does Audrey decide to go to Haiching?

Later in the night, the four girls visit a bar to attend Audrey’s business meeting, where she relies on Kat and Lolo for translation. However, the meeting takes a wild turn as everyone gets drunk, and Audrey ends up puking on her client after taking a thousand-year-old egg shot.

Later, before finalizing anything, Mr. Lin demands to know more about Audrey’s Chinese roots because Chinese people only do business when they know their people.

Lolo realizes that Audrey’s meeting is not going as planned and claims that Audrey is quite close to her birth mother. As a result, Mr. Lin invites Audrey, her mother, and her friends to his mother’s 50th birthday party. Despite Lolo saving Audrey from the messy night, Audrey is not pleased about lying.

However, since there is no other option, they decide to visit her birth mother in Haiching after learning that Lolo has already connected with the agency and has all the details required to meet her mother.

What happens to Audrey and her friends on their way to meet her birth mother?

At the train station, despite Lolo pointing out that Chinese people are more trustworthy than Americans, Audrey tells everyone to be vigilant for any pickpocketing. The four girls share a coach with a fellow American girl who looks quite suspicious. However, Audrey tries to become friends with her, and before she knows it, all of them are covered in cocaine dust when the train coaches are raided for drug substances.

The American girl forces everyone to hide the cocaine in their private parts, and when the police enter their coach, the American girl blames them for everything. They all get thrown out of the train, and Kat realizes that the American girl stole her suitcase with all their passports and essential things.

Is Audrey a Chinese or Korean?

While the girls were grappling with their situation, Lolo arranged an alternative mode of transport, leading them to have a raunchy night with the boys from the football team.

However, their individual experiences cause them to miss their ride to Haiching, resulting in all of them staying at Lolo’s Nai Nai’s (grandmother’s) house. During their stay, Audrey had a realization about how different her life could have been if she had remained in China with her mother.

The next day, Audrey decided to visit the adoption center dressed in traditional Chinese clothing. To her surprise, the agency informed her that she was actually of Korean heritage, not Chinese.

This triggers an existential crisis in Audrey, leaving her feeling furious about how she had believed in her Chinese heritage all her life and had even bonded with Lolo over this shared assumption.

What does Joy Ride try to explain with Audrey being Korean and not Chinese?

This is the point in the film where our attention is drawn to the common misconception about different ethnicities. Asian individuals are frequently mistaken to be Chinese solely based on their similar facial features. However, the film highlights that each ethnicity and culture possesses a distinct identity that can be recognized if people take a closer look.

By showcasing Audrey’s experience, the film emphasizes the importance of understanding and appreciating the uniqueness of various ethnic backgrounds. It reminds us not to generalize or assume someone’s heritage solely based on appearance but rather to approach each individual with an open mind, recognizing and celebrating their diverse identities and cultural backgrounds.

Were Audrey and her friends able to reach Seoul?

Joy Ride (2023) Movie Ending
A still from Joy Ride (2023).

With their passports gone and no means to reach Audrey’s birth mother, Deadeye reaches out to some online friends for help. They come up with a plan to pretend to be members of a K-Pop band. Things get really exciting executing their charade, but unfortunately, Kat experiences a major wardrobe malfunction during their act, and in the process, her secret tattoo is revealed.

This not only ruins her relationship with her partner Clarence who happens to reach there to meet her but also dashes their only chance to visit Audrey’s mother in Seoul.

The girls end up traveling to Seoul without any documents on a ship filled with livestock.

Upon arriving, Kat discovers that her video of the wardrobe malfunction has gone viral, causing her to lose her composure. Meanwhile, Audrey faces the consequences of her recent absurdities, leading to her boss and Mr. Lin severing ties with her and damaging the company’s reputation.

Frustrated by the escalating problems, the girls have a heated confrontation, during which Lolo learns about Audrey’s decision to leave her old life behind and move to LA permanently with Kat.

Audrey blames Lolo for messing up everything for her, accusing her of acting like a child with no understanding of adulthood and responsibilities.

At the same time, Kat is furious with Audrey for prioritizing her future in LA over her ruined acting career and shattered personal life. The confrontation hurts Deadeye as well, as she realizes that Audrey doesn’t take her seriously.

All this chaos leads to the girls walking away from each other, each grappling with their own emotions and frustrations.

Joy Ride (2023) Movie Ending, Explained:

Does Audrey meet her birth mother?

Left alone to continue her journey, Audrey visits the adoption center in Seoul and learns the heartbreaking truth that her birth mother had passed away long ago.

As she pays a visit to her birth mother’s burial grounds, she unexpectedly encounters her mother’s husband. Mr. Dae reveals to Audrey the story of her birth mother, who was very young when she became pregnant. To avoid public shame, her parents sent her to China throughout the duration of her pregnancy. Despite her mother’s desire to keep the child, she was coerced into giving her up for adoption, leading to Audrey’s eventual adoption by her current parents.

Mr. Dae then shares a heartwarming video message that Audrey’s birth mother recorded before her passing from cancer. In the video, her mother expresses her love and bids a heartfelt goodbye to the child she had to let go.

Overwhelmed with emotions and seeing her mother for the first time through the video, Audrey embraces Mr. Dae in a tight hug, grateful for the opportunity to connect with her past and understand her roots.

The next day, Mr. Dae reveals to Audrey that their meeting was not a coincidence. In fact, her friends had contacted him to help make this significant reunion happen, bringing everything full circle for Audrey and giving her a chance to find closure and a deeper understanding of her own life journey.

Does Audrey reunite with Lolo, Kat, and Deadeye in the end?

As Audrey misses her friends, she calls her parents seeking comfort and support. Meanwhile, on the other hand, we witness Kat and Clarence reconciling after she leaves a heartfelt, three-hour-long voicemail, coming clean about her past and opening up to him. Lolo moves out of her parents’ garage after securing a job as a waitress at a restaurant that also allows her to sell her artwork to interested customers. At the same time, Deadeye occasionally fills in as a receptionist at the same restaurant.

Audrey visits the restaurant and sincerely apologizes to Deadeye, who instantly forgives her and embraces her in a tight hug. Audrey then publicly apologizes to Lolo, who also forgives her and expresses regret for taking her for granted in the past. Audrey admits that Lolo was right about her dissatisfaction with the job at the law firm, and she shares her decision to open her own law firm. The girls manage to sort out their differences and reconcile their friendship.

The ending of Joy Ride (2023) shifts the action to one year later, where the four girls are in Paris, with Kat having joined them as well. They make a pact to immerse themselves in art and culture during their stay in the city. However, after visiting a few artworks, they find themselves getting bored and decide to head out for a meal together. The film concludes with the girls discussing Kat’s wedding preparations as she shares her plans for a fall wedding.

Read More: Where to watch the latest comedy “Joy Ride” starring Ashley Park?

Joy Ride (2023) Movie Trailer

Joy Ride (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Joy Ride (2023) Movie Cast: Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Stephanie Hsu, Sabrina Wu
Where to watch Joy Ride

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