It’s always tricky translating literature to screen. In Shortcomings’ case, it struggles to make its Berkeley and New York settings appear more lived-in than just a few postcard-like frames. You could also tell that the conversations it stirs up about things like representation and mixed-race relationships began in the early aughts, when the novel it was adapted from was first released. But those lapses are small and forgivable in the face of a lovely ensemble cast and a whipsmart script.
It also takes a special kind of skill to make a character as fiercely unlikeable as Ben (Min) watchable, to hold up a mirror to the audience and make them stay. Thankfully, it's a skill that Tomine and first-time director Randall Park display with such grace. Ben, Alice (Sherry Cola), and Miko (Ally Maki) are flawed and often pathetic, but they’re also honest reflections of who we become when the demands of self-preservation and romantic openness clash. It’s a little unnerving to hear them verbalize what we've always feared about ourselves, but it’s also exhilarating, not to mention comforting, knowing that we're not alone in feeling this way. Shortcomings works because it doesn't confine itself to genre: it's a character study first, and a romantic comedy second.
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Actor: Adam Enright, Adrian Tomine, Ally Maki, Boran Anh, Debby Ryan, George Deihl Jr., Jacob Batalon, Jess Nahikian, Justin H. Min, Melanie J. Newby, Mike Cabellon, Nikhaar Kishnani, Randall Park, Ronny Chieng, Scott Seiss, Sheldon Best, Sherry Cola, Sonoya Mizuno, Stephanie Hsu, Tavi Gevinson, Theo Iyer, Timothy Simons
Director: Randall Park