Weekend film reviews: ‘Joy Ride,’ ‘Amanda,’ ‘WHAM!’

Written by Amy Ta and Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Sarah Sweeney

“Joy Ride” follows four friends traveling through Asia, with one of them seeking her birth mother. Credit: YouTube.

The latest film releases include “Joy Ride,” “The YouTube Effect,” “Amanda,” and “WHAM!” KCRW gets reviews from Christy Lemire, film critic for RogerEbert.com and co-host of the YouTube channel “Breakfast All Day;” and Witney Seibold, contributor to SlashFilm and co-host of the podcast “Critically Acclaimed.”

“Joy Ride” 

Adele Lim’s feature directorial debut stars Ashley Park, Stephanie Hsu, Sherry Cola, and Sabrina Wu as four friends traveling through Asia. One of them is looking for her birth mother.

Seibold: “This film is on a quest to be as raunchy as it possibly can, and succeeds humorously in stretches. There are some moments where the crass humor gets a little bit tiresome, or the timing isn't really snapping. But for the most part, you start to really like these characters. And after a while, you do get to understand who they are, where they are in terms of diaspora and their Asian identity and how that conflicts with their American identity. And by the time we get to the end, we actually really understand them as people, as well as these horny, crass roadtrippers.”

Lemire: “It means to push not just boundaries, but racial stereotypes, right? So a lot of the fun of this is watching these characters just absolutely smash their way through really outdated and offensive notions of Asians being sweet and docile and hardworking. … It is also very sweet, though. … When they are talking about their identity, when they are talking about their friendship, maybe it slows down in ways that are a little awkward, totally. But the substance of those conversations rings true, and you want them to learn from their experiences and learn from each other.”

“The YouTube Effect” 

This documentary follows YouTube from its humble beginnings to becoming one of the world’s biggest media platforms.

Lemire: “The whole purpose of YouTube is to keep you on there. … It will take you down more extreme levels of the kind of content that you're interested in. That's how it keeps you watching, either to get you angry, or get you shocked, or whatever it is. … There's a lot of dark corners of YouTube out there. So it just connects all those dots in a way that is very informative.”

Seibold: “If you've been paying attention, all of the information in this film is going to be old to you. This idea that YouTube operates on these recommendation algorithms, and they're designed to recommend things to you that elicit outrage rather than pleasure. … The algorithm works to push these extreme points of view. YouTube can be a very useful tool, but it's also incredibly damaging.” 


This Italian coming-of-age film is about a young woman who has returned home to her dysfunctional upper class family after studying abroad. Without any friends, she reconnects with a girl from her childhood. 

Lemire: “They're both trying so hard to be tough and aloof. But you can see that beneath that veneer, they both longed to be friends so desperately and don't know how. They also long to rebel against the expectations of their wealthy families. They don't know what they want, but they know they don't want that. Amanda's family owns a chain of pharmacies across Europe and they're very, very wealthy and privileged and miserable. And so that's all fun watching the director poke holes at that.”  

Seibold: “It's almost like a Wes Anderson character origin story. ‘How did they get to be so mannered and so well dressed?’ This is how they began. But it doesn't have that sense of whimsy. It's actually a little bit more aggressive than something like Wes Anderson. There's a little bit more of a bitterness and disaffection and dissatisfaction with the way the world is set up. … These two young women are able to bond in their own curious way and find an escape [and it] feels kind of cathartic and almost like a big middle finger. I really adored this movie. I love the friendship. I love the way it looks at these people. I love that it embraces oddness without making it seem like that insufferable manic pixie dream girl state.”


The Netflix documentary is about the 1980s pop duo Wham!

Lemire: “The movie is as joyous as their music. I have to admit off the top — I was totally in the bag for this before I even pressed play on it. Because I love Wham! … Part of this movie shows when they went on tour throughout America in 1985. I was there on my 13th birthday at Hollywood Park. I went to the Wham! concert in a stretch white limousine. … [The film is] also an appreciation of what that friendship was like, and what the dynamic was like, what was going on behind the scenes that maybe wasn't obvious.”

Seibold: “There's a lot of interview footage just throughout their entire career. They were very visible. … They were very open about where they were in their career, who they felt they were. And they were also very frank about how silly they were being. I think it's very telling that Wham! actually started as essentially a comedy troupe. … They don't think of themselves as some sort of important voice. … They just wanted to be popular, to have a lot of fun and … they did. And that's the entire point of the movie.”