Shortcomings (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)
Updated: Aug 7
Starring Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola, Ally Maki, Tavi Gevinson, Debby Ryan, Sonoya Mizuno, Jacob Batalon, Timothy Simons, Scott Seiss, Theo Iyer, Nikhaar Kishnani, Borah Ahn, Amy Pham, Sheldon Best, Mike Cabellon, David Niu, George Deihl Jr., Melanie J. Newby, Jess Nahikian, Adam Enright, Stephanie Hsu, Ronny Chieng, and Randall Park.
Screenplay by Adrian Tomine.
Directed by Randall Park.
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. 92 minutes. Rated R.
Shortcomings begins with a film within a film, a brief snippet of a slightly cheesy, feel-good imaginary Asian-American comedy, obviously loosely based on Crazy Rich Asians. The lead character in Shortcomings, Ben (Justin H. Min), a struggling filmmaker, is in the audience for the film. He ends up getting into an argument with his girlfriend, Miko (Ally Maki) because he refuses to just sit back and enjoy the film, much like the rest of the audience, but he feels the need to prove that he is superior to this type of pandering entertainment.
Shortcomings is very little like Crazy Rich Asians, although it is a romantic comedy looking specifically at the AAPI world. Well, calling it a romantic comedy is a bit of a stretch, as Ben doesn’t really even believe in romance, per se, although he craves it.
Ben is not necessarily the type of character that an audience will root for to find true love. He’s extremely self-centered, rather cynical, extremely pretentious, dismissive and kind of a slacker. He has a wandering eye, is overly sensitive to every little slight, and has a yen for white girls (which he refuses to acknowledge, even though it is obvious to everyone). He is somewhat anti-social, thinks he knows everything, and he is essentially stalking his recent ex.
In fact, Shortcomings probably works because it acknowledges that Ben is kind of an ass. Hell, even Ben sometimes acknowledges that fact.
Yet somehow, Shortcomings, and specifically actor Min, is able to make this guy rather sympathetic and likable, even occasionally lovable. This mostly is shown through his friendship with his lesbian bestie Alice (a star-making turn by Sherry Cola). Their conversations alone are worth the price of admission.
After the argument over the film in the beginning (and with lots of other reasons), Ben’s girlfriend decides to “take a break,” accepting a job in New York City and essentially ghosting Ben. Ben takes some time to feel sorry for himself, tries a couple of aborted attempts to date white girls, and eventually gets himself fired from his job running an LA repertory theater.
Then he decides, even though the audience knows it’s just looking for trouble, to go to New York and try to win back his ex. This is even though he finds out through social media that she has already gotten involved with another man.
He crashes with Alice, who had already moved to New York after finding true love herself. He spends his days following his ex and getting in the middle of Alice’s new relationship, until everything just blows up, mostly due to Ben’s toxic anger.
Shortcomings is the directing debut of actor/comedian Randall Park (who also does a cameo role as a diner owner), and it shows promise for an impressive new path in his career.
Going back to the original first scenes, honestly, Shortcomings has its own shortcomings and is not necessarily as good of a movie as Crazy Rich Asians, the film which seemingly inspired this film’s “movie-within-a-movie” that our hero openly mocked.
However, the AAPI experience is a big one and this tells another interesting story within that world. And smartly, Park and screenwriter Adrian Tomine (based on his graphic novel) do not try to fully redeem Ben in the end, giving the movie a slightly ambivalent closing which is much truer to the core of its main character.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2023 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 4, 2023.