By Chris Dos Santos
20th June 2023

Opening with a parody of what is clearly 'Crazy Rich Asians', 'Shortcomings' challenges the current trend of representation in media. Is having a diverse cast enough; does it matter how clichéd the film is? This is an extremely interesting conversation as I think we often forget film is a business and while representation can lead to profit, it still has to have mass appeal, and that sometimes means it has to depend on familiar tropes. That does not mean art will not be made, but it's the double-edged sword of if box office isn't strong then it could lead to no films being made. It's why right now the dependence on nostalgia is so huge, which can lead to something like 'Top Gun: Maverick' or 'Jurassic World: Dominion' annihilating the box office. An even clearer example is in the musical world with 'Hamilton' - while it had an incredibly diverse cast, Broadway is incredibly expensive and thus it had to appeal to the wealthy, revisiting the ideas of the American Dream, to be profitable. This extremely strong opening had me hooked on what first-time director Randall Park would bring the big screen.


'Shortcomings' follows Ben (Justin H. Min, 'After Yang', Netflix's 'The Umbrella Academy'), an extremely cynical movie theatre boss who loves his Criterion Collection almost more than his girlfriend, Miko (Ally Maki, 'Toy Story 4', Disney+'s 'Home Sweet Home Alone'), who works closely with Asian film festivals. The two often butt heads on not just film but everything in-between and have an incredibly rocky relationship. When Miko ends up taking an internship in New York for three months, Ben is left alone and has to explore who he really is. He often reaches out to his queer best friend Alice (Sherry Cola, 'Turning Red', TV's 'Good Trouble'), who is equally sinical of the world.

Ben's being so flawed and unlikable ironically makes him instantly relatable.

What really makes 'Shortcomings' soar is its lead character; Ben's being so flawed and unlikable ironically makes him instantly relatable. The film is filled with real conversations that ground the movie and make it one of the most relatable pieces of media of the year.

'Shortcomings' proves Randall Park's director status with a fun comedy that sells us on unlikeable leads with realistic problems.

Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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