Synopsis: A trio of young, Bay Area urbanites — Ben Tanaka, Miko Hayashi and Alice Kim — navigate a range of interpersonal relationships while traversing the country in search of the ideal connection.
Director: Randall Park
Stars: Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola, Ally Maki
During summer months, the expectation is to see blockbusters and action films on the big screen, but from time to time, we are treated to entertaining dialogue-driven films. That’s what the new film Shortcomings from Randall Park (Fresh off the Boat), is aspiring to accomplish. His directorial debut is about three young people in from an Asian-American community.
Ben (Justin H. Min) and Miko (Ally Maki) are a couple. Things in her career are starting to soar, but Ben doesn’t seem to be happy for her. Ben isn’t happy about a lot. There could be a room full of people that are positive about something, and he will find the negative in it. His personality is exhausting.
Ben manages a movie theatre, and perhaps the most interesting aspect of that part of his life is the quirky members of his staff.
In one instance, Ben and Miko are at their apartment, which Miko’s father pays for, and during the evening, Miko wants Ben to come to bed for some intimate time. He dismisses her advances to stay up and watch tv.
The situation isn’t helped when a short time later, she stumbles upon his adult content which shows his preference for white women. As a person of Asian descent, this doesn’t sit well with Miko.
Ben has a good friend in Alice (Sherry Cola). The two of them are very close, and she seems to be one of the few people that can deal with his personality. Alice is friendly and flirty and seems to attract many of the women who come into her orbit.
Miko has an opportunity for an internship in New York and decides to take it, thus putting her relationship with Ben on hold. Is this good news for Ben or bad?
Shortcomings is a film that explores relationships but also does a very good job of self-discovery for these characters.
I have been critical of actors turned directors, but Randall Park won’t feel that wrath. He has orchestrated a very strong film here. He has avoided clichés and chose not to play it safe with a cookie-cutter film but instead does an impressive job in this feature based on Adrian Tomine’s screenplay.
The casting of these three actors is also worthy of mention. There are some great scenes that feel extremely authentic; others are very relatable. Both are achieved thanks to great performances.
At times the film is subtle, and at other times it’s very much in your face. Justin H. Min’s Ben isn’t likeable, but his performance is impressive. It’s as if he was familiar with Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David’s level of curmudgeon and basically said hold my beer, and attempted to top it but in a different way.
Sherry Cola’s Alice brings a lot of lighthearted moments to the film, but she also serves as a counter-viewpoint to Ben.
Ally Maki is also notable, and while given the least screen time of the three, she doesn’t disappoint.
Shortcomings is a strong debut for Park, backed by some very good acting.