Randall Park’s Upcoming Film is Everything I’ve Ever Wanted
More stories like this, please
Recently, writer Hua Hsu interviewed Randall Park about his upcoming directorial debut: the screen adaptation of Adrian Tomine’s graphic novel, Shortcomings. Yes, that’s a mouthful. But prepare yourself, because I’ve got a lot more to say about this exciting project.
Shortcomings is a story about a group of Asian friends in their late-twenties who are really going through it. They’re not great people, and they often make asses out of themselves, but it’s evident that they’re just trying their best, as is the twenty-something way. Think Reality Bytes, but with Asians who have Asian kid problems. Park discovered this book while he was in his early thirties, in a period of his life where the racism of the industry was starting to make him reconsider his path in life. He felt like if you weren’t a Daniel Dae Kim or a John Cho, then you were never going to be able to land even a guest appearance. Reading Shortcomings changed Park’s perspective entirely.
What is Shortcomings based on?
Shortcomings is a story that doen’t typecast young Asian Americans in the typical ways. They aren’t nerds, they aren’t “sirens.” They are just kids going through it. The protagonist, Ben, is an arrogant jerk who tries to act “above” his Asian-ness, yet can’t help but feel the effects of American racism.
Park was especially impressed with the very specific issues that Tomine touches on that we don’t often see in Asian media—because, let’s face it, it’s only recently that Hollywood has started giving us the space to actually portray our real lived experiences. Such issues include prioritizing white narratives, weird feelings about interracial relationships, and how it feels to be an “Asian bum” (i.e. not a doctor, not a lawyer, just sort of cruising around, aimless). They’re not always pretty, and they’re often upsetting things we have to deal with growing up. But all the same, I think it’s good to talk about them.
Already, off the bat, I’m in love with this concept and how Park’s own lived experiences will shape it. People who try to shut down race conversations in this country will often use the “It just isn’t that big of a deal” argument, but the thing they don’t get is that we WISH it wasn’t. We really do! Park was always gifted at acting, but the nature of the racial beast that is The Acting Biz made it incredibly hard for him to establish his career up to this point. Where the nepo babies of our age just have to smolder at their cameras, people like Park have had to hustle to an exhaustive degree just to be able to pitch their own material. Just look at the cast of Everything Everywhere All At Once—it took most of them a long time to be recognized for their talents!
However, in looking into Tomine’s work further, I only got more excited for this project. I didn’t realize that this was the Tomine who authored Optic Nerve: a comic series from the 90s featuring Asian Americans who go through situations that are largely autobiographical to Tomine’s own life. The man is immensely talented, with a knack for portraying subtleties of the human experience that often go unexamined by writers and artists. Bearing this in mind, it makes sense to me that Park loved Shortcomings as much as he did. It probably spoke to him in a way that nothing else out there really could.
When will Shortcomings come out?
Shortcomings premiered at Sundance this past January 21st and will likely hit theaters later this year. It will star the following fantastic cast:
- Justin H. Min as Ben, the surly protagonist
- Sherry Cola as Alice, his queer best friend
- Ally Maki as Miko, his girlfriend
- Debby Ryan as Sasha
- Tavi Gevinson as Autumn
- Sonoya Mizuno (<3333) as Meredith
- Jacob Batalon as Gene
- Timothy Simons as Leon
- Ronny Chieng and Stephanie Hsu as guests
I, myself, have always wanted to write a story that reflected Asian experiences that were close to my own heart. But it’s a difficult thing to do when there’s so much noise out there working against you. Reviews of the film thus far paint it as somewhat bland compared to the graphic novel, largely due to Park’s tonal style. Considering how genial and lighthearted Always Be My Maybe was, I don’t totally doubt this.
However, as a wise woman once told me, “Fuck it.” I still think variety is good. Regardless, I’m excited to see the film and talk about it more. Plus, come on, Randall Park is the homie–I’m proud of him!
(Featured Image: Adrian Tomine, via Drawn and Quarterly)
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