‘Shortcomings’ Review – Sundance 2023

Shortcomings: Directed by Randall Park

SYNOPSIS: Ben Tanaka, is a movie-theater owner who is grappling with the implications of race and culture on the dating scene. Ben lives with his girlfriend, Miko Hayashi, a politically active firebrand whose enthusiasms aren’t shared by her boyfriend; his best friend, Alice Kim, is a lesbian who wants him to pretend to be her boyfriend so her conservative family won’t learn about her true sexual identity.

When I was exploring the Sundance program for this year, Shortcomings was one of the films I was most looking forward to. To start it off, I am a fan of Randall Park and was very interested to see what he could bring in his directorial debut. I am also a sucker for a good romcom and this one looked right up my alley. The reviews had me genuinely intrigued and I loved the fact that it was also based around ‘movie culture’ today. There were so many easter eggs in here that genuinely made me laugh my ass off. 

Let’s start with the performances. Justin H. Min is the lead in this project and after his breakout in 2022 Sundance darling, After Yang, I was very interested in how he would follow it up. He is the polar opposite of his performance in After Yang and I kind of really liked it. He’s unlikeable, but I don’t blame him for that, we will talk about that in the writing. He’s not the star however. Sherry Cola is BY FAR the best part of this movie. She brings the perfect balance of comedy and drama with her own arc that I really loved. I want her in every movie, for real. There’s not much to say about the rest of the cast, they are all solid as well.

The writing is probably the weakest part of this film and a lot of that comes down to our main character of Ben. He is supposed to be unlikeable, absolutely and I can respect the decision that is made. It takes the norms of romantic comedies and spins it on its head which is a risk. It works to a point, but when we reach the conclusion of his story, I felt like the emotion was lacking. I felt no reason to both feel bad for him or want him to be redeemed. A lot of that fault is in the writing for giving him no redeemable aspects. I love the comedy, I think the film references are great and the pacing is solid, but the journey nor the destination was worth it in the end.

FINAL: Shortcomings is a very solid directorial debut from Randall Park. Justin H. Min is good as our leading man, but Sherry Cola is by far the star of the show. I have some problems with the writing of our main character, but as a comedy, it is incredibly solid. This is one that I can see a lot of people loving when it comes out to general audiences and one that I would recommend to almost anyone when it’s released.

Point Breakdown:

15 for Writing: 12

15 for Performances: 13

10 for Entertainment: 8

10 for Direction: 8

10 for Emotions: 7

5 for Cinematography: 4

5 for Score: 3

5 for Pacing: 5

15 for Technical: 11

5 for Rewatchability: 5

5 for Automatic: 5

Shortcomings: 81/100

Jack Lautaret is a Banana Meter approved film critic, Host of the Jack Lautaret YouTube Channel and writer for Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Online Film and Television Association. Twitter: @JackLautaret


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