Starring Ally Maki, Debby Ryan, Sherry Cola, Randall Park, Timothy Simons, Jacob Batalon, Sonoya Mizuno, Tavi Gevinson, Justin H. Min
Actor and comedian Randall Park (“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania”) makes his cinematic directorial debut with a film reminiscent of early Woody Allen films. “Shortcomings,” which debuted at Sundance, stars Justin H. Min (“After Yang”) as a complicated man-child drafting his own specific set of problems. More sarcastic than laugh-out-loud funny, the film is adapted from the graphic novel by Adrian Tomine. It’s an entertaining, 90-minute look at the period between adolescence and adulthood, where some people stall. If you’ve ever seen a Woody Allen film starring Wood Allen as a constantly perplexed character railing against society’s woes, You will appreciate the delicacy of Min’s performance.
A failed filmmaker who abandoned college for more practical work, Ben (Min) now manages the Berkley Arts Cinema in the Bay Area. He shares an upscale apartment with his girlfriend Miko (Ally Maki), whose wealthy father owns the building. Their relationship hits a major roadblock when he is more interested in watching classic cinema on Blu-ray than coming to bed at night. She calls for a break and accepts an internship in New York, Ben’s least favorite city. He doesn’t ask her to stay; instead, he looks at this as an opportunity to date other women, specifically white, blond women. Through social media, Ben furiously discovers Miko is also exploring other relationships but can’t see the hypocrisy of his anger.
Min makes Ben likable, or at least watchable, from an entertainment standpoint. At first, some of his takes on relationships or societal injustice are partially justified; he sounds like he knows what he is arguing. However, as the film and script continue, Ben’s sociopathic tendencies become more transparent.
The charisma that comes from Min never allows the audience to hate this flawed character.
Sherry Cola (“Joy Ride”) is Alice, Ben’s best friend. She is equally bad but with a sense of humor. The two sarcastic friends differ only when one meets someone worth changing for, maturity through a relationship. The character of Miko deserves a more significant role. She is off-screen for much of the film. More of a plot device than a character, she still gets the film’s best line. One you will know, maybe even clap for, when you hear it.
While “Shortcomings” isn’t precisely about cinema, Ben’s snobbery toward mainstream cinema is an added layer to his persona. The movie opens with Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All At Once”) as an actress in a film that Ben and Miko are watching at a film festival. His critique of the film “aftershock cringes” catalyzes what will happen in his life. The script is full of colorful dialogue like “fence sitter” to describe bisexual tendencies or “trendy dabbler,” someone who occasionally gets caught up in modern trends. The script also juxtaposes California and New York; Ben, of course, has strong opinions. Even though nothing presented in “Shortcomings” is inherently new to the comedy genre, the viewpoint and the voice from where it’s coming from are original and insightful.
Whimsical and sarcastic, Justin H. Min shines as a Woody Allen-type character with a personality crisis.