Ride or Die: Writer-Director Adele Lim Is Bringing Asian-American Storytelling to New Heights

by Marie Lodi

Any Asian-American woman who watches Joy Ride, the girls’ trip comedy from first-time director Adele Lim, out July 7, will see themselves in it. Whether it’s the part about the friendship between two Asian girls who grew up in a predominantly white environment—or, perhaps, one of the more risqué scenes. (There’s one involving a very creative vagina tattoo.) The film stars Ashley Park, Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola, and Sabrina Wu as friends who accompany Park on a trip to Asia to track down her birth mother.

But as heartwarming as that sounds, the movie is more in the vein of The Sweetest Thing and Bridesmaids than The Joy Luck Club, the 1993 film based on Amy Tan’s bestseller about four Chinese-American women and their mothers. Lim, 47, says that when she was writing Joy Ride with her co-writers, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao, the working title was “Joy Fuck Club.” It was a saucy wink towards the first major studio film with an all Asian-American, mostly female cast.

But there are no tiger moms in Joy Ride. The movie is rife with raunch; the members of Lim’s character’s squad find themselves in one outrageous scenario after another, including a chaotic threesome, drug smuggling, and one shocking K-pop rendition of Cardi B’s “WAP.” These types of shenanigans are something never seen before in a film with four Asian women/non-binary leads. “Each one of these characters is inspired by ourselves and our friends,” says Lim. “But we also have a couple of friends who have stories that are actually nastier than what we could put into the movie.”Growing up in Malaysia, the idea of working in Hollywood was something Lim never considered. “You might as well have said you wanted to be an astronaut,” she says. “It just wasn’t in our vernacular.”

Lim’s parents, who had worked in advertising, thought she could be a copywriter. It wasn’t until she attended Emerson College in Boston that she realized working in show business was an option. “That was the first time I thought, ‘I’m in a country where young people feel like this is something that’s a possibility,’” she recalls. “‘And if it’s a possibility for them, why not me?’”

After graduating, Lim moved to L.A., where she still lives, eventually writing and producing shows like One Tree Hill, Life Unexpected, and Private Practice. Since then, Lim’s played a pivotal role in bringing Asian-centered stories to the big screen. She co-wrote 2018’s blockbuster hit, Crazy Rich Asians, famously turning down the sequel due to a massive pay disparity between herself and the film’s white male screenwriter. In 2021, she penned Raya and the Last Dragon, which featured the first Southeast Asian Disney princess. But Lim hopes Joy Ride ends up being “one brick in the road” on the journey towards normalizing Asian stories that resonate with everybody.“Our mothers and grandmothers went through so much so we could be here, living our best, ridiculous, messy, thirsty lives,” Lim says. “It’s not about proving ourselves to anyone other than ourselves. And it’s not about struggling to survive. We’re finding joy and reveling in our own messiness, just like in any other white guy’s R-rated comedy.”

Hair & Makeup: Tiffany Lee, Photographed by Kelsey Wagner

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.