‘Joyride’ review: Olivia Colman charms in goofy Irish road trip comedy

The Oscar winner plays an alcoholic who is accidentally kidnapped by a 12-year-old boy in this fluffy but cute couples farce.

We’ve all made interesting choices during the pandemic. Some people have gotten dogs, some have left exciting cities for quieter pastures, and some have made great career leaps. Oscar winner Olivia Colman, it seems, swung wildly out of her usual prestige material for a little trip to Ireland. All it took to get her there was a healthy road trip comedy in which her primary co-star is a 12-year-old boy.

Though the inimitable Colman can’t help but wring an admirable performance from the overly sentimental material, her immense talent overshadows the melodramatic setting. Once we get to a scene where the kind-hearted hooligan teaches her how to breastfeed in a hut by the sea, it’s clear that we’re no longer in Yorgos Lanthimos territory.

While not entirely without charm, “Joyride” quite literally milks both comedy and melodrama from its neat premise like a new mother shedding her silk blouse — an outrage Colman carries off with sharp vulnerability. The title is given a double meaning by her character’s name, Joy, although her open young pal knows her as “Vodka Tonic”.

His charming Irish name is Mully (Charlie Reid), a rowdy thug who recently lost his mother. A teenage crooner who wows local pub-goers with his smooth rendition of “Minnie The Moocher,” Mully is largely neglected by his untrustworthy schemer from father James (Lochlann Ó Mearáin). After a charity fundraiser in honor of his mother, Mully discovers that James is pocketing the package for himself. A well-intentioned bully, he grabs the money, hops into a moving cab and blasts off, unaware that a baby and a limp Joy are passing out in the backseat.

All the loitering eventually wakes Joy, where she spots her young captor and quickly takes stock of their predicament. An accomplished lawyer, she convinces Mully that she will not press charges if he takes her to her ultimate destination, whose purpose she is both reticent and relentless in pursuing. “No turning back, only forward” is all it takes for her to venture into the unknown with a minor in tow.

“Joyride”

Pictures of magnolias

Though their family barb has a sharp Irish edge, Joy and Mully soon develop a friendly relationship, and their resulting bond gives the film its juicy heart. It’s clear they clashed to teach the other a lesson neither knew they needed. Joy doesn’t exactly exude motherly warmth, as evidenced by the steely way she ignores her crying baby. Mully slowly melts her defenses with his gentle care for the baby, which he says he learned while helping his niece. As Mully begins to soften Joy’s resolve, he accidentally pulls out the motherly love he so desperately misses.

While it’s never going to be ridiculous to see an adolescent boy teaching a grown woman how to breastfeed, the role reversal is a clever idea to support this poignant comedic drama. Colman is unable to deliver anything insincere, and she brings far more weight to the role than the project calls for. Equally charismatic in Mully’s sweet and sour moments, Reid jabs at Joy’s “leaky tits” with as much bravado as he cradles the crying child.

The production gets support from the hilly roads of County Kerry on Ireland’s south east coast, where Joyride was filmed. The bright green hills and blustery maritime environment provide a picturesque backdrop for this poignant story, even if the imagery isn’t exactly cinematic.

Joyride marks the narrative debut of Irish filmmaker Emer Reynolds, a former film editor who has successfully directed documentaries, most notably the 2017 NASA documentary The Farthest. There aren’t many stylistic considerations in Joyride, but although Reynolds deserves credit for the finely tuned performances and the film has an excellent cast. Bad Sisters writer Ailbhe Keogan’s screenplay is rife with lopsided hits that have Colman and Reid slapping back and forth in amusing ways. The drama feels pretty short in scope, save for a few moments where it stretches too far for depth, but it’s executed well enough for its ambitions.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly who the main audience for “Joyride” is, though Mully is cute enough not to really offend any of the empty nesters who might be most affected by his lessons. The greatest risk in the story is Joy’s ambivalence about motherhood, although the film doesn’t exactly hide its opinion on the subject. In Ireland, it seems, even the coldest of hearts can be warmed by a nice cup of coffee and a charming young lad.

grade B-

Joyride is available in theaters and on VOD on December 23rd.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2022/12/joyride-review-olivia-colman-comedy-1234794496/ ‘Joyride’ review: Olivia Colman charms in goofy Irish road trip comedy

Lindsay Lowe

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