Shortcomings Tribeca Film Review

Movie Bunker Score:

Shortcomings: Randall Park’s Directorial Debut

A Comedy Exploring Cultural Issues

Randall Park’s directorial debut, Shortcomings, is a thought-provoking comedy that tackles cultural issues, albeit with a slightly unlikeable protagonist. The film manages to captivate and surprise viewers by raising cultural issues that may not have been previously considered. Within the first twenty minutes, Shortcomings presents audiences with not one, but two cultural issues to ponder.

A Glimpse into Ben’s Turbulent Relationship

Shortcomings revolves around the life of Ben (Justin H. Min), the manager of a local movie theatre and the boyfriend of Miko (Ally Maki). Their relationship is strained, as they constantly argue, particularly about Ben’s supposed obsession with white women and their differing views on film. When Miko secures an internship on the other side of the country, Ben is left to navigate his complex emotions with the help of his close friend Alice (Sherry Cola). The majority of the story takes place in Berkeley, California, where the characters, predominantly liberal and movie enthusiasts, reside.

A Satirical Take on Liberal Film Enthusiasts

Shortcomings skillfully satirizes the characters in Berkeley, presenting a perspective that can resonate with viewers from various political backgrounds. Adrian Tomie’s script incorporates conversations that feel like they could arise from the depths of film Twitter, making the film relatable and amusing even to those unfamiliar with such communities.

A Challenging Protagonist

As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Ben is not a protagonist that evokes much sympathy or support. While he occasionally displays charm, the majority of his actions and statements are eye-roll-inducing. This deliberate portrayal of an unlikeable protagonist prompts mixed reactions. Films with unlikeable main characters can often succeed, particularly within the realm of comedy. However, Ben’s unlikeability borders on becoming unbearable at times. As a result, it becomes more enticing to explore and get to know the supporting characters as they make appearances throughout the film.

Race and Representation without Sacrificing Humor

Shortcomings, a rare comedy, manages to weave themes of race and representation into its narrative without resorting to offensive or overwhelming humor. One message that stands out is the increasing emergence of films led by people of color (POC). Recent years have seen the success of films like Black Panther and In the Heights, not only for their impressive filmmaking qualities but also for their role in promoting on-screen representation.

The film opens with a fictional movie that bears a striking resemblance to Crazy Rich Asians. As the fictional film receives cheers and tears from the audience, Ben remains unimpressed and even angry. This prompts a discussion with Miko about the tendency to praise films purely based on a diverse cast, regardless of their quality. This idea provides a fascinating perspective that is often overlooked. While personal opinions may vary on the matter, it is a takeaway that lingers long after the film ends. It is a topic that merits further exploration, specifically by filmmakers of color.

An Exploration of Relationships and Biases

Shortcomings also delves into the dynamics of relationships, tackling a sensitive subject. One of the main points of contention between Ben and Miko is when she discovers his preference for pornography featuring white women on his laptop. While Miko is not particularly upset about his consumption of pornography, she expresses concern that it exclusively features white women. Ben defends his preferences by stating that pornography is intended as a fantasy, which only worsens Miko’s feelings. Later, Alice jokingly suggests that Ben exclusively favors white individuals. This aspect of the film opens up a conversation about interracial relationships and the existence of biases. Ben raises the notion that there may be a double standard when it comes to Asian individuals dating white people. According to him, an Asian man dating a white woman elicits admiration, while the reverse scenario may give the impression of fetishization. This point of view is thought-provoking, providing insight into an issue that may not be frequently discussed. Shortcomings encourages conversations about complex and difficult topics, fostering introspection and helping to address underlying biases in society.

Frustrating yet Hilarious

While Shortcomings can be frustrating at times, the film’s humor and intriguing ideas leave a lasting impression. Sherry Cola delivers a standout performance as Alice, injecting the film with a dose of genuine hilarity. Adrian Tomine’s screenplay shines, leaving viewers eagerly anticipating his future works. Despite being an independent film, Shortcomings represents another step forward in terms of representation both on and off the screen. It is highly recommended for viewing, as its success may pave the way for more films of this nature.


1. What is Shortcomings about?

Shortcomings follows the story of Ben, a manager at a local movie theater, and his relationship with Miko. Filled with cultural nuances and comedic moments, the film explores themes of race, representation, and relationship dynamics.

2. Who directed Shortcomings?

Shortcomings is the directorial debut of Randall Park, known for his roles in various films and TV shows.

3. When and where did Shortcomings premiere?

Shortcomings premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 17, 2023, garnering attention and critical acclaim.

4. How does Shortcomings address issues of race and representation?

Shortcomings tackles these issues by presenting thought-provoking scenarios and conversations between characters. It offers a satirical take on liberal film enthusiasts and explores biases within interracial relationships.

5. What can viewers expect from Shortcomings?

Viewers can anticipate a comedy that balances humor with meaningful social commentary. Shortcomings offers a unique perspective on cultural issues and encourages discussions about race, representation, and personal biases.