A rather clever wink opening to actor Randall Park making his directorial debut, Cons , say In the end, most of it didn’t live up to its promises.
A young couple, aspiring filmmaker Ben (Justin H. Min) and his girlfriend Miko (Ally Maki) are watching an apparently parody film at the Bay Area Film Festival. Crazy Rich Asians . Ben hates it as a “flashy mainstream rom-com that glorifies capitalist fantasy”, while Miko sees it as a “game changer” that will allow aspiring Asian American directors to make something “cooler, more art or otherwise”. shortcoming
Bottom line An engrossing but watered down drama.
Sundance Film Festival (American Drama Competition) Cast: Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola, Ally Maki
Director: Randall ParkWriter: Adrian Tomine, based on his graphic novel
1 hour32 minute
Shortcomings Oh, not that one Cool, arty movie – and it’s not the glamorous popcorn bling-a-thon that made Asians all over the world. It’s more of the standard Sundance play we’ve seen so many times before, albeit with a charming cast and some scathing comments about race, identity and gender from screenwriter Adrian Tomien, He adapted his 13 graphic novel of the same name. After its premiere at the main game in Park City, it will be released through Roadside Attractions, but will likely find more traction on the small screen.
Divided into short books like Tomine’s comics, the film follows Ben living a dead-end snobby and misanthropic life in Berkeley, working at a nearby movie theater, Living in the luxurious apartment of the insanely rich Miko, who, like Ben, is Japanese-American. Although the two have been together for a while, their relationship seems to be at a standstill, so when Miko heads off to New York for an internship, Ben sees it as a moment to chase the woman he’s been fantasizing about – as Miko discovers on his laptop a lot of pornographic content.
The fact that the porn stars are all white women seems to be causing more problems for Miko than the porn itself, but Ben doesn’t want to hear it. He’s a born contrarian and refuses to acknowledge that his race can be a problem — unless, that is, when he sees fit to do so. But mostly, he doesn’t hear what Miko and his best friend Alice (Sherry Cola) have been trying to tell him: Ben’s main problem is Ben.
It’s a familiar premise – a cynical sociopath who goes through things and learns valuable life lessons – and it tends toward the familiar direction, as the now semi-single Ben, navigates the Bay Area dating scene, first bumping into an employee (Tavi Gevinson) and then with a rebounding girl (Debbie Ryan (Debby Ryan) was out before hooking up, and this short-lived romance was once again tested by Ben’s ambivalence about race. Eventually he winds up in New York, reconnecting with good friend Alice and hoping, more out of desperation than any real love or devotion, that maybe the flame with Miko can be rekindled.
That Ben is not the most likable guy isn’t really the problem here – nobody wants their protagonist to be two pairs of shoes and a perfectly drilled hole. The problem is the overall lackluster plot and humor, lacking some of the comedy that Park himself stars in (Fresh Off the Boat, The Interview ) and Tomine’s rant on his excellent work as a graphic novelist (Summer Blonde, Killing and Death), where the characters are often guided by a lonely and hopeless identity that can never be fulfilled. (French director Jacques Audiard has more successfully adapted several of Tomine’s works into dramas Paris, th District, a darker movie than that.)
Park assembled a strong cast, Min (The Umbrella Academy, After Yang) Carry does a good job in the lead role and manages to give Ben some of the edge he needs while still making him someone we should be rooting for. Maki and Cola are convincing as two women who see Ben very differently but also see right through him, along with some nice cameos – especially Veep Funny Timothy Simmons – rounds out the troupe.
There is nothing to distinguish from other directions, here may be a confession:
There are a few scenes that are not enough Ben watching Tru Ferguson, Ozu, and Cassavetes, among others, yearn for their greatness, even acknowledging at one point that he’s no Eric Rohmer, citing another of his idols. The problem is, as viewers, we also can’t help but compare what we’re watching to what Ben appreciates, which makes, um, the shortcomings all the more prominent. Full credits
Venue: Sundance Film Festival (US Dramatic Competition) Production Company: Topic Studios, Tango Entertainment, Imminent Collision, Picture Movies, Roadside Attractions
Cast: Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola, Ally Maki, Debby Ryan, Tavis Gevinson, Sonoya Mizuno, Jacob Batalon, Timothy Simons
Director: Randall Park
Writer: Adrian Tomine, based on his graphic novel Producers: Margot Hand, Randall Park, Hieu Ho, Jennifer Berman, Howard Cohen, Eric D’Arbeloff, Michael Golamco Executive Producers: Ryan Heller, Michael Bloom, Jennifer Semler, Maria Zuckerman, Tim Headington, Lia Buman, Max Silva, Neil Shah, Ryan Paine, Daniel Hank, Adrian Tomine
Director of Photography: Santiago Gonzalez
Production Designer: Bill Boes
Costume Design: Ava Yuriko Hama
Editor: Robert Nassau
Composer: Gene Baker
Casting Director: Nicole Abellera Hallman
Sales: UTA, WME
1 hour 13 minutes THR Comm
Sign up for THR news daily straight to your inbox