I had the great honor and pleasure of interviewing Randall Park as he visited San Francisco as part of his directorial debut to promote his upcoming film, Shortcomings, released by Sony Picture Classics and coming to a theater near you on Friday, August 4th. Shortcomings premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah earlier this year and currently holds an 80% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes.
As I told Randall, I’ve been following him since I ever noticed him in a Wells Fargo commercial back in 2008, which eventually became a regular series which I called Asian American Commercial Watch. This was followed up by The People I’ve Slept With (which was written by former 8Asians blogger Koji Steven Sakai), The Interview, Always Be My Maybe, his work in the MCU as Jimmy Woo, and UCLA’s 2023 commencement address. I forgot to mention what Randall is probably most known for – Fresh Off The Boat! I had mentioned I had interviewed Hudson Yang and his father Jeff Yang, who I first met a long time ago back in the mid-90s.
Interviewing Randall was my first time interviewing a well known actor (and now film director!), but he was so down-to-earth that I felt very comfortable talking to him. My only concern was that I was asking meaningful questions around his directorial debut on Shortcomings. Please view above or click on this link to watch!
Review of Shortcomings
Ben, a struggling filmmaker, lives in Berkeley, California, with his girlfriend, Miko, who works for a local Asian American film festival. When he’s not managing an arthouse movie theater as his day job, Ben spends his time obsessing over unavailable blonde women, watching Criterion Collection DVDs, and eating in diners with his best friend Alice, a queer grad student with a serial dating habit. When Miko moves to New York for an internship, Ben is left to his own devices, and begins to explore what he thinks he might want.
The film is based on a graphic novel written and adapted by Adrian Tomine (which I have never read and was never aware of until the film came out). Overall, I enjoyed the film, but not nearly as much as I enjoyed Joy Ride, which Sherry Cola also stars in. The film could be described as a comedic drama, which had very strong performance by leads Justin H. Min and Sherry Cola, along with Ally Maki, and Debby Ryan as well as Tavi Gevinson.
In fact, I really really like Justin & Sherry. As I was telling Randall, had I not seen Sherry in Joy Ride, she definitely would have surprised me a lot in her performance. This was the first time I had seen Justin perform – and after some research, I learned he had starred in After Yang (which I have yet to see – but I knew had critical acclaim). And to my surprise, in doing my research on Justin, I learned that he was a fellow Cornell alum!
Ben is not the most likeable character and is idiosyncratic in his world view (which often comes across as complaining). had a hard time believing from the start that Ben and Miko had been in a relationship for six years when we are first introduced to them. I liked the friendship and banter between Ben and Sherry Cola’s character Alice.
As you can see from the trailer, Ben starts to date a white woman while he and Miko are on a “break,” a fetish he has which plays into the storyline, and a counterpoint one might say to the often discussed Asian American topic of White Male/Asian Female (WM/AF) couples we see disproportionaly in comparison to Asian Male/White Female (AM/WF) couples.
Overall, I enjoyed Randall’s direction with the script he was working with. As I mentioned, I did not believe the premise of Ben and Miko at the beginning being in such a long term relationship. As a better writer from Slant Magazine summarized many of my thoughts on the film:
“As a director, Park maintains a quick pace that fits Tomine’s scrappy and theory-laden screenplay, which focuses somewhat less on Ben’s self-hatred than the graphic novel and more on how his fixation on argumentative hot takes sabotages his relationships. Maintaining a high ratio of humor to introspection, and surrounding Ben with a strong cast of engaging secondary characters, the film manages the trick of presenting a frequently antisocial protagonist in a way that’s honest and unsparing while still empathetic. After watching Ben burn one bridge after another, viewers may not want to care what happens to him at the end of the film, but the power of this peppy and romantic-ish comedy is that many of them will.”
The film comes out Friday, August 4th.