SUNDANCE REVIEW: “Shortcomings” (2023)

Randall Park makes his directorial debut with “Shortcomings”, a romantic(ish) comedy written by Adrian Tomine. In many ways the film bucks many of the trends that have become synonymous with the romcom genre. But in several other ways it falls right in line with what we’ve come to expect. Ultimately it’s that inconsistency, along with some pretty glaring box-checking, that keeps the movie from fully gelling.

At first, Ben (Justin H. Min) and Miko (Ally Maki) seem like a form-fitting couple. They have their different likes and unique perspectives. For example he’s obsessed with artsy cinema while she’s much more politically minded. Yet differences aside, they’ve been together for six years and seem to love each other. But we start seeing cracks in their relationship which comes to a head when Miko gets accepted to a three-month internship in New York City. They agree to take “some time off” and she goes to the Big Apple while he stays in California.

Ben is a mix of pitiful and insufferable, and his only release outlet is his best friend Alice (Sherry Cola). She’s your stereotypical romantic comedy comic relief. She risqué, eccentric, and faithful, but mainly there to fill in a role and get some quick laughs. Cola’s performance is good and she does hit us with a funny line or two. But she’s the prototypical romcom sidekick who stands by the lead character and drops nuggets of wisdom in between her crude gags and obvious observations.

After Miko doesn’t answer his calls, Ben quickly looks for a cure to his loneliness. He starts by hanging out with Autumn (Tavi Gevinson), a wacky new employee at the movie theater he manages. Later it’s an acquaintance of Alice’s named Sasha (Debby Ryan). But they only open his eyes to what he had with Miko. The question is, has he waited too late to finally realize what he had? And does he have it in him to put his own ego aside?

We get some really good performances from Min and Maki who both do well in bringing out their characters’ personalities. But best is how Park writes them. While Ben is tough to bear, Miko is no angel which leads to some fairly interesting second half tension. Jacob Batalon also pops up in a small but funny role (he has one particularly funny line that Marvel Cinematic Universe fans will definitely enjoy).

Yet as a whole “Shortcomings” doesn’t offer as much to its genre as it clearly hopes to. It shows signs of originality and even ends on a pretty satisfying note. But you can see it working hard to have a modern appeal, despite leaning on a few too many tropes. Ultimately nothing about it feels all that fresh. It’s certainly a solid debut for Park. But the inconsistencies of the script, are a little too much for the first-time director to overcome.


7 thoughts on “SUNDANCE REVIEW: “Shortcomings” (2023)

  1. I have liked Randall Park in the few things I’ve seen him in (was the first time maybe when he played a “stand-in Jim” for Pam in The Office?), but too bad he can’t wrangle out all the cliches from his story. Sounds fun enough though

  2. I’ve heard mixed bits about this film but I’ll check it out. Plus, I love Randall Park as I hope to see more of him as Agent Woo. The Avengers are going to need him and his magical hands.

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