There’s a slightly intelligent wink-wink opening to actor Randall Park’s debut function as a director, Shortcomings, which, when all is alleged and finished, largely fails to ship on its promise.
A younger couple, the aspiring filmmaker, Ben (Justin H. Min), and his girlfriend, Miko (Ally Maki), are watching what’s clearly a spoof of Loopy Wealthy Asians at a Bay Space movie pageant. Ben loathes it for being a “garish mainstream rom-com that glorifies a capitalistic fantasy,” whereas Miko assume it’s a “game changer” that can enable aspiring Asian-American administrators to make one thing “cooler, more artsy or whatever.”
The Backside Line
An appealingly acted however watered-down dramedy.
Shortcomings is, alas, not that cool and artsy film — neither is it the shiny popcorn bling-a-thon that turned Asians right into a worldwide smash. It’s extra just like the type of normal Sundance-bound dramedy we’ve seen plenty of occasions earlier than, albeit with an enthralling solid and a few sharp bits of commentary on race, id and gender that come courtesy of screenwriter Adrian Tomine, who tailored his 2007 graphic novel of the identical title.
Divided into quick chapters identical to Tomine’s comedian books, the movie follows the snobbish and misanthropic Ben as he navigates a dead-end life in Berkeley, the place he works at a neighborhood movie show and lives within the swank house of the loopy wealthy Miko, who, like Ben, is Japanese American. Though the 2 have been collectively for a while, their relationship appears to be at a standstill, so when Miko takes off for an internship in New York, Ben sees this as a second to go after the ladies he’s been fantasizing about — as evidenced by the ample porn Miko discovers on his laptop computer.
The truth that the porn stars are all white ladies appears to pose extra of an issue for Miko than the porn itself, however Ben doesn’t wish to hear it. He’s a born contrarian who refuses to acknowledge that his race might be a problem in any respect — until, that’s, when it fits him to take action. However largely he fails to listen to what each Miko and his finest buddy, the snarky and girl-crazy Alice (Sherry Cola), have been making an attempt to inform him all alongside: that the primary drawback with Ben is Ben.
It’s a well-recognized premise — the cynical delinquent dude who will undergo some stuff and be taught a beneficial life lesson — and it tends to go in acquainted instructions as Ben, now semi-single, navigates the Bay Space relationship scene, first hitting on an worker (Tavi Gevinson) and putting out earlier than hooking up with a lady on the rebound (Debby Ryan) in a short-lived fling once more examined by Ben’s contradictory emotions about race. Finally he winds up in New York, reconnecting with bestie Alice and hoping, extra out of desperation than any actual love or devotion, to maybe rekindle the flame with Miko.
That Ben shouldn’t be essentially the most likable of fellows shouldn’t be actually the issue right here — no one desires their protagonists to be goody two-shoes and excellent bores. The issue is the general blandness of the plotting and humor, which lacks the chew of a few of the comedies Park himself has starred in (Recent Off the Boat, The Interview) and the bark of Tomine’s terrific output as a graphic novelist (Summer season Blonde, Killing and Dying), the place characters are sometimes guided by a lonely and determined craving for id that may by no means be fulfilled. (The French director Jacques Audiard extra efficiently tailored a number of of Tomine’s works into the 2021 drama Paris, 13th District, an altogether darker film than this.)
Park has put collectively a powerful solid, and Min (The Umbrella Academy, After Yang) carries the lead function effectively, managing to present Ben a few of the edge he wants whereas nonetheless making him a man we’re speculated to root for. Maki and Cola are convincing as two ladies who see Ben fairly otherwise and but see by him as effectively, whereas just a few good cameos — particularly one by Veep’s hilarious Timothy Simons — spherical out the troupe.
The route in any other case doesn’t have a lot to differentiate it, and right here maybe a phrase to the sensible: There are just a few scenes in Shortcomings the place Ben watches basic movies by the likes of Truffaut, Ozu and Cassavetes, eager for their greatness and even admitting at one level that he’s no Eric Rohmer, to quote one other idol of his. The issue is that we, as viewers, can also’t assist evaluating what we’re watching to no matter Ben is admiring, and it makes the, um, shortcomings stand out much more.
Venue: Sundance Movie Pageant (U.S. Dramatic Competitors)
Manufacturing corporations: Subject Studios, Tango Leisure, Imminent Collision, Image Movies, Roadside Sights
Forged: Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola, Ally Maki, Debby Ryan, Tavis Gevinson, Sonoya Mizuno, Jacob Batalon, Timothy Simons
Director: Randall Park
Screenwriter: Adrian Tomine, primarily based on his graphic novel
Producers: Margot Hand, Randall Park, Hieu Ho, Jennifer Berman, Howard Cohen, Eric D’Arbeloff, Michael Golamco
Govt producers: Ryan Heller, Michael Bloom, Jennifer Semler, Maria Zuckerman, Tim Headington, Lia Buman, Max Silva, Neil Shah, Ryan Paine, Daniel Hank, Adrian Tomine
Director of pictures: Santiago Gonzalez
Manufacturing designer: Invoice Boes
Costume designer: Ava Yuriko Hama
Editor: Robert Nassau
Composer: Gene Beck
Casting director: Nicole Abellera Hallman
Gross sales: UTA, WME
1 hour 32 minutes