Thursday, July 6, 2023

Bob's Cinema Diary: July 7, 2023 -- 'Joy Ride' and 'Biosphere'

 Joy Ride

     Who should we place at the head of the class when it comes to raunchy  movies? 
     Maybe you’re thinking white American men. But if you see Joy Ride, an ultra-bawdy comedy starring four Asia women, you might want to reconsider. 
     Director Adele Lim plays raunch for laughs when four women (Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Sabrina Wu, and Stephanie Hsu) travel to China. 
    The ostensible reason for the trip: Park’s Audrey, an up-and-coming lawyer, needs to close a deal in Beijing in order to land a partnership that will take her from New York to LA. 
     Once Lim dips her toes into ribald waters, she's pretty much obligated to try to outdo previous big-screen efforts. She often does. 
      Lim makes her mark with a major sight gag that's best discovered in a theater but which certainly fulfills the obligation to raise the movie's  off-color quotient, delivering the joke with in-your-face panache. 
     The movie also delves (skims is more like it ) into issues of identity. The women are attuned to stereotypes that have been used to diminish Asian Americans and know how to play them back while enriching them with sarcasm. 
     Sex almost always occupies center stage, some of it involving Audrey and a couple of members of a Chinese professional basketball team. Hsu's Kat works overtime to conceal an active sexual past from her strait-laced religious fiancé (Desmond Chaim). 
    I can’t say I found Joy Ride consistently hilarious, but Lim hits the high points square on, and her movie can't be faulted for lack of crowd-pleasing boldness. Joy Ride makes no bones about establishing its place in the world of aggressively impolite comedy.


    Billy (Mark Duplass) once was president of the United States. His best friend Ray (Sterling K. Brown) was his trusted science adviser. Some form of apocalypse has pushed the two men into a self-sustaining sphere that Ray designed. Billy and Ray seem to be the last two people on Earth. Biosphere doesn't want for ambition as it tries to tackle themes related toi gender, male bonding, and the unexplained doomsday that forced these two characters into claustrophobic isolation. Pay attention to the fish farm Ray has created; it holds the key to the survival of the two men and perhaps the entire human species. A twist involving rapid evolution taxes belief but serves as a way for director Mel Eslyn to explore issues revolving around manhood and its meanings. Bottom line for me: I found this two-hander a bit dull and a bit strained in the way it deals with issues involving gender. In the end, the screenplay by Duplass and Eslyn tries to endorse the idea that science and rational thinking sometimes must give way to the unexplainable. Magic would be another word for it, but the movie feels short of that elusive ingredient. It’s an odd mix: High stakes in a low-wattage drama.

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