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Release Date: 08/04/23 [Cinemas]
Genre: Comedy. Drama. Romance.

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics. 

"Follows a trio of young, Bay Area urbanites--Ben Tanaka, Miko Hayashi and Alice Kim--as they navigate a range of interpersonal relationships while traversing the country in search of the ideal connection." 


Being the feature directorial debut for Randall Park as well as the feature writing debut for Adrian Tomine (who is the creator of the graphic novel this film is based on), Shortcomings is an impressive effort, even if containing shortcomings of its own.


Seemingly taking large inspiration from Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, Shortcomings has us follow Ben, a somewhat insufferable and flawed loser with snobby opinions on movies (in opposition to music in High Fidelity), as his love life spirals due to his inability to take initiative and accountability. Already this concept may turn away audiences who seek likable protagonists, but I tend to find stories about terrible people to be rewarding experiences. Similar to Good Time and High Fidelity themselves, stories like these are, I think, more capable of showcasing the toxicity, large or small, that resides in all of us and allows us to see parts of ourselves in these characters, much like how some people can see parts of themselves in virtuous characters. However, what really makes the focus on a flawed character work is the conjoined fact the storytellers know these characters are flawed and push them to become better people. This, thankfully, applies to Shortcomings and, thankfully again, Ben’s arc is not one of the shortcomings of this feature.


Instead, the film’s weakest elements are in the pacing and brevity of its story. Most scenes feel 80% complete, like they desperately need one more pass on the script to fully bring the audience on board of what’s happening and ground them to the situation. On a positive note, though, the performances from the cast make up for the script’s weaknesses, with Justin H. Min (who I recognized from my favorite Wong Fu Productions short) and Sherry Cola (Joy Ride) carrying the film from one point to another with fantastic chemistry. To top it off, the supporting cast, with surprising appearances by Stephanie Hsu, Debby Ryan, and Jacob Batalon, help round out the atmosphere of the film the cinematography captures with grace.


To allow myself to be just a little bit snobby, I want to point out that film is subjective. Your mileage will vary, and I feel this is definitely a film that’s hard to recommend unless you know exactly who this film is for. For instance, I felt like this film was for me, to some degree. Like a peek into a darker timeline version of myself, a struggling filmmaker working at a movie theater and never learning to self-reflect, so I enjoyed it and knew halfway through watching it that I would be buying this on blu-ray. But would I recommend it to you, the reader, who I’ve never met and discussed your taste in films? That’s a big maybe. But, either way, I think we could agree this isn’t a bad pick.

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