Jan 31, 2023
By Kaveh Jalinous
Shortcomings, the debut feature film from famed comedian Randall Park, is a humorous yet not fully developed story about a man constantly failing to realize that he’s the worst person in the world.
Set in Berkeley, the film centers around Ben (Justin H. Min), an unsuccessful filmmaker and screenwriter who works at a local movie theater and mooches off of the wealth of Miko (Ally Maki), his girlfriend of six years. Given Ben’s constant attitude and his inherent inability to admit to his mistakes, it comes as no surprise when, early in the film, Miko decides to leave Ben and move to New York. Unsure of what to do with his life, Ben spends his days moping around at the theater, hanging out with his best friend Alice (Sherry Cola) or attempting to find a rebound hookup, usually to no success. Ben tries to move on, but he just can’t seem to catch up to reality.
Because of its straightforward plot, Shortcomings takes on an episodic structure, with pastel-colored title cards dividing the film into 10-minute-ish chunks. Each section of the film is incredibly similar in tone and execution, showcasing a different method Ben takes to try and move on from Miko. The film’s vignette-like nature makes sense since the narrative’s stakes stay relatively constant from start to finish. There’s no story growth as the film moves forward because, for the most part, none of the characters’ motivations or personalities change very much. Even for a fair amount of the film, Ben doesn’t seem to realize just how horrible and uncaring of a person he is because no one steps up to tell him. As such, until the final act, the story constantly loops, thematically inching forward with each retelling of the same situation.
Regardless, Shortcomings is highly entertaining. The humor is fresh and memorable, perfectly capturing the millennial angst of its characters. The screenplay never reaches too far to get a laugh from the audience, specifically because its jokes are genuinely creative and funny. Plus, Ben’s character is a joke in itself. He is someone you love to hate, someone whose comments and utter contempt towards others are truly egotistic and nonsensical, but someone you can’t stop watching nonetheless.
The film also boasts a talented ensemble. The entire cast–particularly Min, Maki and Cola–constantly find ways to echo their characters’ personalities through their excellent line deliveries or perfect comedic timing. This gives the film a sense of authenticity, even if everything happening on-screen is completely bonkers. The cast, along with a light and breezy narrative, make Shortcomings an extremely watchable 90-minute experience.
Author rating: 6/10
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