‘Shortcomings’ review: Messy, rock-bottom characters make Randall Park’s comedy

Randall Park’s new comedy Shortcomings is based on Adrian Tomine’s graphic novel. The movie follows Ben Tanaka (played by Justin H. Min), who is a struggling filmmaker, as he navigates relationships with his girlfriend Miko (Ally Maki) and his best friend Alice (Sherry Cola). Ben is a misanthropic guide through the film, offering his thoughts on representation and flawed Asian characters.

The movie opens with a movie in a movie where we meet Mrs. Wong (Stephanie Hsu), who gets rejected for a penthouse apartment, and her husband (Ronny Chieng) buys the entire building, leading to a passionate kiss in the elevator. The film gets a standing ovation from the audience, except for Ben, who finds the romantic comedy “garish and mainstream.”

Throughout the movie, Park and Tomine show us Ben’s many red flags, including his unwillingness to engage with Miko about her work at the festival and his clear preference for “blonde white women.” Despite preaching about the importance of flawed characters in films, Ben has no intention of addressing his own flaws.

However, despite his unlikable character, Min’s portrayal of Ben is fascinating, and we root for him and other characters to better themselves. The dialogue between Ben and Alice is a highlight of the film, offering understated, wince-worthy jokes that feel natural and help establish a lived-in feel.

While Miko is an important character, she doesn’t get the same level of treatment as Ben and Alice. The film’s third act picks up momentum and features an unexpected quest that unites Ben and Alice in strange circumstances.

In conclusion, Shortcomings is a strong feature directorial debut from Park, offering fascinating flawed characters and natural dialogue. The movie opens in theaters on August 4th.

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