Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

dir Randall Park
scr Adrian Tomine
prd Hieu Ho, Randall Park, Michael Golamco, Margot Hand
with Justin H Min, Sherry Cola, Ally Maki, Tavi Gevinson, Debby Ryan, Sonoya Mizuno, Jacob Batalon, Scott Seiss, Timothy Simons, Ronny Chieng, Stephanie Hsu, Randall Park
release US 4.Aug.23
23/US 1h32

maki hsu park

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lin and cola
This Bay Area romantic comedy infuses a naturalistic approach with witty dialog. Much of the humour is sharply pointed in an unusually soft-spoken way, and in his directing debut Randall Park maintains earthy rhythms that hold the interest. So even if it's never terribly flashy, there's a sense of honest depth to the film that makes it resonate far beyond the ethnic issues that simmer meaningfully throughout the script.
Aspiring filmmaker Ben (Min) is determined to make a movie that's more authentic than the Asian hits. Meanwhile, his gay Korean pal Alice (Cola) asks him to pose as her boyfriend when her parents visit, and his girlfriend Miko (Maki) accuses him of being attracted to blondes like Autumn (Gevinson), the new employee at the arthouse cinema he manages. When Miko moves to New York for an internship, they decide to take a break. So Ben turns to Autumn, then connects with Sasha (Ryan). And when Alice goes to New York as well, he follows.
Deliberately rejecting the broad strokes of guilty-pleasure movies like Crazy Rich Asians, which is riotously lampooned in the opening sequence, the script's conversations honestly reveal the characters and their flaws. So even as the plot plays with the cliches, the film knowingly explores how people so often fail to understand each other due to their own experiences and expectations. Ben is hugely self-conscious about racial issues, leading to some remarkably edgy banter. And the story also touches on the economics of community movie houses versus the big multiplexes.

Performances have an easy, engaging sensibility, letting small dramas spiral out of proportion. Lin is likeable as a nice guy who is endearingly awkward whenever he tries to express his feelings. His decisions aren't always terribly helpful in getting him out of his rut. Cola's Alice is slightly sidelined as a comical foil, but she has her own journey. Maki gives Miko an internal life that feels truthful, nicely contrasting Ben's quick judgmentalism. And among several terrific cameos, Simons is as hilarious as expected.

While much of the movie centres around casual interaction that playfully confronts some enormous issues, there are also several strongly played confrontations that grapple with how all of us find it so difficult to get out of our own way. Characters continually force each other to look at the shortcomings they see in others but not themselves. Because it's so relatable, the film is also relentlessly charming. And it has a wonderfully thoughtful sting in its tail.

cert 12 themes, language 12.Jul.23

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© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall