“Can I hold your purse?”
After being wildly disappointed in Netflix’s latest string of romantic comedies (most notably The Last Summer and The Perfect Date), I’m relieved to say that the streaming service can finally add another successful notch on their rom-com belt thanks to the endearingly romantic Always Be My Maybe.
Director Nahnatchka Khan has delivered a charming and clever romance that owes much of its success to the excellent chemistry between leads Ali Wong and Randall Park, as well as a talented and hilarious supporting cast.
Wong and Park play Sasha Tran and Marcus Kim, childhood best friends who lose touch after an awkward sexual encounter as teenagers drove them apart. Over a decade passes before the two finally reconnect when Sasha, now a successful celebrity chef, returns to her hometown in San Fransisco to open a new restaurant. Marcus is now a wannabe musician who still lives at home, works for his widowed father’s heating and cooling business, and smokes weed nightly. Their conflicting lifestyles clash when their friendship and mutual attraction begins to blossom again.
The script, co-written by Wong, Park and Michael Golamco, adheres safely to the rom-com rule book, but that’s definitely not a bad thing when it’s executed properly. Comparisons to When Harry Met Sally is inevitable, and you can definitely feel that movie’s influence and inspiration in Always Be My Maybe, but Khan excels in giving her film its own voice, creating a sweetly moving love letter to Asian-American culture while continuing the long overdue normalization of Asian-Americans as romantic leads.
I can’t say enough about the supporting cast. With the exception of Sasha’s wealthy ex-fiancé, Brandon (an underused Daniel Dae Kim), not one character in this movie felt one dimensional. Michelle Buteau plays Sasha’s pregnant best friend Veronica and quite effortlessly steals every scene she’s in. I would love to see her star as the lead in her own romantic comedy. James Saito is hilarious as Marcus’s father Harry and Marcus’s bandmate Tony (Karan Soni) delivers some of the best lines in the film.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there is a brilliant cameo by Keanu Reeves playing… Keanu Reeves. A slo-mo entrance accompanied by AWOLNATION’s Sail sets the tone for what will be a maniacal and extraordinary 15 minutes of screen time. It also inspires a hilarious song that accompanies the end credits, so be sure to stick around for that.
As minuscule as they are, the movie is not without its faults. Some of the humor fell flat or didn’t properly connect with me. Sasha and Marcus’s barrier to a long-lasting relationship is a legit one, but their internal conflicts seemed predictable and typical of rom-com leads. She’s too scared to sit still, he’s too scared to let go and succeed. Still, there is plenty to love in Always Be My Maybe that those particular gripes aren’t enough to overcome my enjoyment of it. There are plenty of laughs and Sasha and Marcus are well rounded enough characters that you do end up rooting for them both individually and as a couple.
If a movie is going to be defined as a romantic comedy, I want to see both genres represented properly, and unfortunately, that seems to be a rare feat. Thankfully Always Be My Maybe expertly balances both rom-com requirements, making it a refreshing and unique entry in this current rom-com renaissance.
“Invest your money in lettuce. Kale can’t hold on forever.”