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The ‘Shortcomings’ Cast All ‘Unfortunately’ See Themselves in the Protagonist

Director Randall Park and his "Shortcomings" cast admit they all relate to Justin H. Min's misanthropic character Ben at the IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Dropbox.

Justin Min, Sherry Cola, Randall Park and Ally Maki at the IndieWire Sundance Studio, Presented by Dropbox on January 21, 2023 in Park City, Utah.

It took a long time for Randall Park to get the opportunity to direct the film “Shortcomings,” an adaptation of the 2007 Adrian Tomine graphic novel that premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

“I first fell in love with [the book] when it came out back in 2007. And I always wanted to see it as a movie,” said the “Always Be My Maybe” actor during an interview inside the IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Dropbox. “I was around the same age as Ben [the protagonist]. And I was like, ‘Gosh, I’d love to play Ben. That would be so cool.’ But that was never going to be made into a movie at that time especially.”

It was years and years later, after he’d broken out as an actor in “The Interview” and “Fresh Off the Boat,” getting to also direct episodes of the latter, that Park found out Tomine had written a screenplay based on his book about Ben, Miko, and Alice, three Bay Area natives navigating their ever-evolving interpersonal relationships, and made a bid to direct and produce it. That the main characters all happen to be Asian American contributed to the lengthy development of the film, as Hollywood has only recently begun to embrace telling more stories centered on people of color.

But the cast members, also present in the IndieWire Studio at Sundance, all think everyone can see a part of themselves in Ben. For example, star Justin H. Min said, “I relate so much to Ben in so many ways. I told Randall before we started filming that I am Ben before therapy, unfortunately, and so it was just such a treat to be able to play this really complex, nuanced character who has so many sides and layers to them. And again, as Asian Americans, it’s very rare that we get an opportunity to sort of play all those sides of ourselves.”

Actresses Ally Maki and Sherry Cola, who play Ben’s girlfriend Miko, and his best friend Alice, respectively, described how their character’s arcs both involve changing in a way that is not very much to Ben’s liking. “This movie, like Randall has said, is about growing apart, changing and evolving,” said Cola. “Ben’s very stuck in his ways, but we’ve all been Ben.”

Maki added that Ben “is not wrong a lot of the time, it’s just the way that you do it,” and that Min conveys that beautifully. Though the cast promoted the universal themes of “Shortcomings,” there were aspects of the film that felt personal to the actress. “It was the first time I really had seen Japanese American characters, and a strong Japanese American female character,” said Maki, who is fourth generation Japanese American. “It was so meaningful to me to see characters like this on screen, and in the script when I first read it, because I never really read anything like that.”

“Shortcomings” premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.

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