In “Shortcomings,” director Randall Park explores a multiplicity of Asian American identities in a fresh and groundbreaking way.
By Lucy Spicer
In line with Sundance Institute’s mission and values, this year’s Festival program is brimming with features that amplify historically marginalized voices and raise awareness about timely social issues. While film has become an invaluable medium for education, audiences will also always look to the screen for pure entertainment.
The 2023 Festival lineup doesn’t disappoint, with comedies scattered across multiple categories and laughs deriving from witty dialogue, scathing satire, and absurd scenarios. With this list, discover a selection of comedic films that serve as humorous palate cleansers for when you need a break from the heavy stuff.
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Polite Society (Midnight) – London teenager Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) has it all figured out: She’s going to be a famous stuntwoman, and her sister, Lena (Ritu Arya), will become a successful artist (after she goes back to art school). Ria’s plans are derailed when Lena gets engaged to the son in a rich and influential family only weeks after she begins dating him. Director Nida Manzoor’s genre-bending debut feature follows Ria and her friends as they scheme to save Lena from her impending marital fate. Available in person.
Rye Lane (Premieres) – When Dom (David Jonsson) and Yas (Vivan Oparah) first cross paths, Dom is preparing to suffer a meal with his ex, who cheated on him with his best friend. Having endured a recent breakup herself, Yas comes to the rescue and acts as Dom’s date. Director Raine Allen-Miller’s debut feature is a vibrant romp around Peckham, following two 20-something Londoners as they connect over bitter breakups and glimmering possibility. Available in person.
Scrapper (World Cinema Dramatic) – Georgie (Lola Campbell) is a plucky 12-year-old girl living alone in her flat on the outskirts of London following the death of her mother. She steals bikes for money and dupes social workers into believing she lives with an uncle, all the while creating a magical world for herself in her flat (complete with talking spiders). She’s doing pretty well on her own, until her estranged father shows up to muddle things. Director Charlotte Regan takes inspiration from her native London to craft this colorful and creative father-daughter tale. Available in person and online.
Shortcomings (U.S. Dramatic) – In Randall Park’s feature directorial debut, jaded art house movie theater manager and film school dropout Ben (Justin H. Min) spends much of his time pining after unavailable blond women and eating in diners around Berkeley with his best friend. When his girlfriend departs for a three-month internship in New York City, Ben finds himself having to reconcile what he thinks he wants with the reality unfolding before him. A witty script by Adrian Tomine based on his graphic novel of the same name lifts this story about the foibles of being human. Available in person and online.
Theater Camp (U.S. Dramatic) – Welcome to AdironACTS, a theater camp in upstate New York whose founder, Joan (Amy Sedaris), has recently fallen into a coma. Joan’s wannabe financial influencer son, Troy (Jimmy Tatro), arrives in an attempt to rescue the camp from its money woes, and hilarity ensues as he struggles to find common ground with the campers and their teachers, including best friends and indomitable duo Amos (Ben Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon). This debut feature by directors Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman is a love letter to theater camp in the form of a mockumentary, filled with quotable lines and memorable characters. Available in person and online.
You Hurt My Feelings (Premieres) – New Yorker Beth (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has been working on her sophomore novel for years, steadily encouraged by her supportive husband, Don (Tobias Menzies). When an overheard conversation reveals that Don doesn’t actually like the new book, Beth’s world turns upside down. Meanwhile, Don’s professional life is also faltering: He can’t seem to care about his therapy patients’ issues anymore. Writer-director Nicole Holofcener returns to the Festival with a clever script delivered by an undeniably funny cast. Available in person.