Cartoonist Adrian Tomine isn’t just an award-winning, much admired cartoonist; he’s a regular IP factory. In 2021 the French Film Les Olympiades debuted. And this weekend, Shortcomings, an indie film based on the book of the same name and directed by actor Randall Park, debuts at the Sundance Film Festival – with a screenplay by Tomine.
So many comics are optioned for films – when this was announced back in 2021, I was hoping it wasn’t just another item in the trades. But all praise to Park (Agent Jimmy Woo in the MCU) who is making his directorial debut with the film – and telling stories that American films have just started to allow filmmakers to tell.
In a profile at Vanity Fair, Park talks about seeing the book for the first time at LA’s Giant Robot shop, and feeling his connection to the story:
“I think what drew me to it was that it just felt so real to me,” Park tells Vanity Fair now. “It felt so reflective of my life at that time, and my friends and the conversations we’d have and the places we’d hang out. It just felt very real and authentic, and in ways that I hadn’t seen reflected anywhere else.”
At the time, Park dreamed of playing the lead character, Ben Tanaka, an Asian American man living in California’s Bay Area who works at the local arthouse theater but aspires to be a filmmaker. Ben is a moody but charming character who is often annoyed with his girlfriend Miko’s newfound passion for supporting the Asian American community. When Miko moves to New York for an internship, Ben is left to figure out what he really wants from life and love.
Instead, Park got behind the camera for a film starring Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola, and Ally Maki. And in the wake of Crazy Rich Asians (and now Everything, Everywhere All At Once) stories about Asian-Americans are finally being told on the screen as they are on the page, Park continues:
What excites you most about this story finally being adapted?
It’s the same thing that excited me when I first opened that graphic novel, which was that it felt like an authentic story. But it also felt like a story that seemed impossible to make, as a movie. And here we are 15 years later and it actually got made, and I actually got to direct it. It still feels different. Despite all of the great advances that we’ve got to celebrate lately in terms of representation and stories from our community, it still feels special and different from what we’ve seen.
For his part, Tomine has been Instagramming a bit about the film and will be appearing on a panel at the Festival.
As previously mentioned, Tomine is already a film festival veteran – Les Olympiades (English title: Paris, 13th District) debuted from director Jacques Audiard at the Cannes Film Festival. It was loosely based on Tomine’s short stories “Amber Sweet”, and “Killing and Dying” from the Killing and Dying collection, and “Hawaiian Getaway” from Summer Blonde. Reviews were mixed, but it made a splash.
Shortcomings, the film (and the comic), seems even more connected to the major themes in Tomine’s work. Quite honestly The Beat is super excited for him and Park (and our Entertainment Editor Therese Lacson who is at the festival and will hopefully get to see the movie.)
The film, written by Tomine and directed by Randall Park, will be screening on January 22nd 2023 at 5:30 pm EST, in Eccles Theatre, Utah. Information about consecutive screenings is available on the Sundance website.
Eccles Theatre is located at 1750 Kearns Blvd, Park City, UT 84060.
A virtual screening will be available on Tuesday, January 24th from 10am Eastern through to the end of the day.
You can also catch Adrian Tomine speaking on the Sundance Beyond Film panel, “Going Nowhere? On Burnout and Attention Crisis” on Saturday January, 21st at 2pm.
And you can buy the book that started it all right here at Bookshop.org or your local comics shop.