This review is part of our coverage of the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
The Pitch: Ben is a jerk; Ben is miserable; Ben is a hypocrite. Most importantly, Ben is our hero.
on Randall ParkThe directorial debut, the bold choice was made to give us an almost identical main character. Justin H. Min, best known for his role in Netflix The Umbrella Academy and Sundance 2022 player After thatfacing the thorny paper on the head-on Disadvantages, making a strong case for future top human opportunities in the process. His character, Ben, runs a local arthouse movie theater in the Bay Area, coping with the fact that he has failed to pursue his own filmmaking dreams by cutting off the people who give it their best shot.
His girlfriend, Miko (Ally Maki), works for an Asian-American Film Festival and is fed up with the constant negativity. So when Miko accepts an internship in New York City and the couple decides to go on a vaguely defined “break,” Ben begins to spiral. The cinema is on shaky ground, her best friend Alice (a dynamic Sherry Cola) is busy with her own endeavors, and all the new art is bad, if you ask her. Disadvantages adapted from a graphic novel by Adrian Tomine, who is also here as the screenwriter.
I am a Fan of Genre Auteurs: Disadvantages playful and clever in places — the opening, featuring pitch-perfect cameos from (newly selected Oscar nominee!) Stephanie Hsu and Ronnie Chieng, not-so-subtly calling for an Asian-centric blockbuster in 2018. Ben laments the state of the art that allows such capitalist fantasies to become the pinnacle of Asian representation in cinema. ; Miko pointed out that she hadn’t taken any big swings of her own yet, prompting Ben to immediately bite back with full defensiveness. It’s a cycle that he constantly finds himself in throughout the film, even with his best friend, Alice, a homosexual who constantly recruits Ben to be his boyfriend at events with his homophobic family.
The local cinema run by Ben is also home to many colorful characters, including one brought to life by Jacob Batalon, who talks a lot about the Disney machine and the “new Spider-Man films” (in which he appears as Ned). But when Autumn (a great Tavi Gevinson) is hired by the theater, she wears a bleached bob that immediately reminds of Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaumseveryone was about to lose their minds — including Ben.