Defining shortcomings in people uses words like flaws and failures. Fortunately, describing the movie Shortcomings includes such adjectives as clever, well-made, and insightful. Screenwriter and cartoonist Adrian Tomine first put currency into the social comedy genre with his Shortcomings graphic novel, which director Randall Park smoothly shifts into live action. Avoiding rom-com traps, the story nonetheless deals with romantic issues, albeit without any dance scene or fashion show. Instead, the story explores how its main characters evolve as they face up to the often-iro
nic shortcomings that repeatedly prevent them from achieving the fabled happy ending they all want. A cultural addition comes with an Asian American perspective. Biases, both internal and external, affect treatment and behaviors, which sounds serious enough but comes across with warmth and humor. Comedian Sherry Cola earns the most laughs with wry, on-target wisecracks, though Justin H. Min and Ally Maki shine as well. Min faces the toughest challenge as Ben, a grumpy, opinionated movie geek whose good looks attract women until they notice all his shortcomings. Like many guys in social comedies, Ben makes an obnoxious main character, mitigated by the nicer people who surround him. Ben and his friends warrant attention, their distinct traits coming in small moments and small talk that reveal bigger issues. An opening sequence also makes a valid point, spoofing a scene from the landmark box office hit Crazy, Rich Asians. Grumpy Ben hates the movie for promoting materialism and rom-com tropes. But the movie opened doors, including the one that let Shortcomings in.