This breezy comedy has good taste in characters.
Randall Park’s directorial debut of “Shortcomings” uses echos from “Clerks” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” because it features a main protagonist who blames his sad life on other people, and it refuses to condensed the Asian cultures, while allowing them to speak English.
But this movie isn’t really about culture; it’s about what life throws at these characters for better or worse. It’s one that finds the right humor and heart to bring out the directions.
Justin H. Min (who was great last year in “After Yang) plays Ben, who runs an art house theater, has a more successful girlfriend named Miko (Ally Maki), and they’re both like opposite magnets. It’s conceivable to her that he’s more into white girls than Asian girls, based on how he finds some on his laptop. He tries to defend that it isn’t the case.
So, that’s when they decide to take some time apart. And she has a 3-month internship in New York City, so that should buy them some time.
It’s refreshing to see two movies this summer about couples who either need their time apart or have an argument about the truth. I’m talking about “You Hurt My Feelings” when Julia Louis-Dreyfus was hurt by her husband’s comments on her new book. These two movies may have different topics, but they don’t cater to people who want the same comedies, they cater to those who sympathize characters.
The supporting work also features Sherry Cola (“Joy Ride”) as Ben’s lesbian friend, who has the wisecracks; Tavi Gevinson (“Gossip Girl,” “Enough Said”) as a younger employee he has a short fling for; Debby Ryan (“Jessie,” “Life of the Party”) as another lesbian, whom he also likes; Jacob Batalon as another coworker, who is no help with a problem Ben later has; and Timothy Simons, who provides a comic twist to one of his would-be love stories. Even Park pops in for a cameo role, along with Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All At Once”) and Ronny Chieng.
Park (whose acting credits include “The Interview,” “Ant-Man & the Wasp,” “Trainwreck,” and “Fresh Off the Boat”) directs “Shortcomings” with more honesty and charisma than how Charlie Day tried and failed with “Fool’s Paradise.” The screenplay was also written by cartoonist Adrian Tomine, who also wrote the graphic novel. This is his second book-to-film transition after “Paris, 13th District,” and he really knows how have movie characters with a reflection on life.
The best performances come from Min, Cola, Maki, and Ryan. They can be truthful in both genres presented here, and even if I can’t read all the characters in the story, I’m still able to see their realities and how they go about their lives. The characters know how to argue without hostility, they know how to crack jokes without insults, and they know to deal with whatever happens in their lives. Park guides these actors with the right intentions.
This is a funny and goodhearted comedy that works with some echos from “Clerks” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” and never discriminates against any Asian culture. When I wrote about this in my virtual coverage of the Sundance Film Festival, I said: “I hope it finds the right studio to sell this project.” And that studio happens to be Sony Pictures Classics.
In Select Theaters This Friday
This article was written by me with full support of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes.