Adele Lim, director of ‘Joy Ride’, is one to watch

Sherry Cola, Adele Lim and Ashley Park attend the Joy ride premiered at the Regency Village Theater Westwood in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Araya Doheny/Getty Images for Lionsgate

Barring a few standouts, the world of R-rated comedy is dominated by white males. Bridesmaids proved that women can be funny And selling tickets (was there ever any doubt?), and now, more than a decade later, Adele Lim’s Joy Ride tries to do the same for Asian women. Lim is best known for her work as a writer, from dozens of TV jobs to Crazy rich Asians, but she takes her talents to the director’s chair. Whatever role she fills, she is one to watch.

Mastery of the TV writers room

Lim’s career in the entertainment industry began around the turn of the century, when she was a script coordinator for an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. According to an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she found the job thanks to a magazine ad she flipped through at a Barnes & Noble (she couldn’t afford to buy the trades, so she flipped through them). From there, Lim deftly navigated the broadcast seas, jumping from NBC to the CW (with the hit show A tree hill) to ABC (spend some time in Shondaland with Private practice).

Adele Lim attends the premiere of Crazy Rich Asians at TCL Chinese Theater IMAX. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Crazy rich Asians and mainstream success

Although Adele Lim was a consistent collaborator in writers’ rooms across Hollywood, she had never written for film until then Crazy rich Asians. The project had been in pre-production for several years by the time director John M. Chu asked her to join the writing team. At that time, a design by Peter Chiarelli (writer of The proposal) was complete, but lacked a degree of cultural authenticity and a certain dexterity when it came to women’s interrelationships; Chu thought Lim was the perfect candidate to help. She ended up contributing a whole new third actcomplete with that memorable mahjong showdown between Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh.

Suffice it to say, Crazy rich Asians was a huge hit – and ripe for sequels. But Lim wouldn’t be part of that. According to a Report 2019, numbers for the next film came in, and they reflected a notable pay gap between her and co-writer Chiarelli. While Warner Bros. Chiarelli offered anywhere from $800,000 to $1 million, Lim’s offer hovered around $110,000. The studio claimed it was about their differences in experience, but the disparity (and the undertones of race and gender) was too great for Lim. In response to the report, she said, “Being judged that way makes you feel like that’s how they see my contributions,” and went on to say that they viewed her work on the film as “soy sauce” — a way to screenplay with a cultural twist, rather than a substantial part of the story. She left the project early in the development process and subsequently wrote the screenplay for Disney (DIS)’s Oscar-nominated animated film, Raya and the Last Dragon.

A wonderfully dirty directorial debut

Joy ridewhich premiered at South by Southwest earlier this year and hits theaters this week, has been hailed as Lim’s “nasty breakthrough” and a “raunchy and propulsive feature film directorial debut.” The film stars Ashley Park as a lawyer who hopes to rise in the ranks of her firm, so she ventures to China in hopes of striking a deal with a Chinese businessman. But that’s not all: her childhood best friend (Sherry Cola) and old roommate (Stephanie Hsu) come along to help translate and convince her to search for her birth mother during the trip. Although it sounds like a healthy journey, Joy Ride is more Bridesmaids And girls trip than it is The sisterhood of the traveling pants.

Adele Lim built a career around her screenwriting talent, making this film an interesting starting point. She only has a story credit on the film, while the script comes from veteran TV writers Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao. She has taken the director’s chair for the first time, with a very successful result. Joy ride tackles his comedy”with disarming energy and verve”, as well as “a level of knowledge about Asian culture rarely seen in Hollywood movies.” Lim wants the film to serve as an example not only of a ‘strong female gaze’, but also of a novel’strong Asian female gaze.” While this film is her first foray into directing (and into R-rated content), she’s stayed true to that vision. Moviegoers can expect her to stick with it, and they should be excited to see what comes next.

Who to watch: Adele Lim, director of 'Joy Ride'

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