Sundance Review: Randall Park’s Heartwarming ‘Shortcomings’
25.01.2023 - 01:31
For anyone wondering how a film called Crazy Rich Asians ever came to be the poster child for diversity and inclusion, Randall Park’s humorous rebuttal is, almost literally, that film’s poor distant relation. Adapted from a comic book rather than a novel and with a cast of character actors rather than stars, Shortcomings even seems to admit its modest production values in the title. But for adventurous audiences, this rough-edged indie is a refreshing antidote to the horrors of the factory-farmed studio romcom, featuring a caustic male thirtysomething Asian-American lead whose messy love life should ring bells right across the age, gender and culture divide.
Shortcomings even starts with a bold sideswipe at Jon M. Chu’s surprise blockbuster. After a screening of a film that ends, Pretty Woman-style, with an obscenely rich Asian man buying a hotel just to impress his new wife, we meet Ben Tanaka (Justin H. Min), a college dropout who runs a rundown repertory cinema, screening classics to half-empty houses, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ben’s girlfriend Miko (Ally Maki) was a fixer on the movie, but Ben, seen wincing at the film’s cheesy pay-off, can’t bring himself to be nice, even in front of the film’s director. Miko brushes his cynicism aside. “It’s a little glossy, but it’s ours,” she says brightly. Ben, however, can’t let it go. “I keep getting aftershock cringes,” he tells his gay friend Alice (Sherry Cola). “I thought I was at a B.T.S. concert.”
Ben, Miko and Alice will turn out to be our three main protagonists, and the sparky chemistry between Ben and Alice as snarky platonic friends goes a long way. The same can be said for Adrian Tomine’s script, which initially riffs hard on arthouse movie-nerd culture—has
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