Review: Always Be My Maybe

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

Plot: Childhood sweethearts Sasha and Marcus are reunited after having spent their adult lives in very different socioeconomic settings. But soon they're brought back together, and they begin to realize something may still be there, and over the course of several weeks, they become closer than ever before and may, perhaps, finally get to spend happily ever after together. Fingers crossed for true love, right?

Review: Much like horror movies where a demon inhabits some sort of children’s plaything, blockbusters where a blue beam blasts into the sky, or a story about a dog finding its forever home but is definitely going to die at the end, most people have their lines drawn in the sand when it comes to romantic comedies. Either you’re all for the grand gestures of love from the two charming leads (fit with witty lines from their best friends) or you hate all cutesy affection and love is meaningless. Netflix’s newest outing, ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE, will only firm your stance in whichever side of the rom-com line you’re on as it adheres to the genre formula to an exactness, but features stars that exude enough charm and several brilliant moments that it’s sure to get at least a few laughs out of even the most hardened romantic cynic.

Starring actor/comedians Ali Wong and Randall Park – who also wrote the script with Michael Golamco – ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE is all about the rekindling of that lost relationship that defined your life years ago, no matter how far apart your new lives may seem. Our tale of love is centered on Sasha Tran (Wong) and Marcus Kim (Park), two people who were best friends all the way until they lost their virginity to each other at 18, which then sparked a rift that remained broken. That is until the fates of the rom-com gods brought them together 16 years later, and thus we get to go along for the ride as they begin to reconnect, and their real, unspoken emotions come bubbling up.

Marcus has remained stationary in life, still living at his dad’s house and playing in the same band he did when he was 18. Sasha, on the other hand, has become a celebrity chef and is back in San Francisco to open a new joint. Their reconnection includes long walks down the streets of San Francisco, talking about where their lives went and cracking each other up, taking Sasha back to old restaurants as she rediscovers her roots with local Asian cuisine and, of course, dealing with all those pesky unspoken feelings. While veteran rom-com viewers will delight in these developments, the writers and director Nahnatchka Khan seem so keen on hitting all these key beats that it rarely manages to carve out its own identity in the crowded landscape.

There are so many bullet points that need to be covered in getting them from not being together to being together for happily ever after, and the movie’s pacing rushes from one to the other in a way that the characters never feel defined by more than their base attributes. Marcus is too afraid to move forward with his life away from home, and Sasha is so busy with business stuff that she has no idea how being so busy is actually a bad thing. As they have sweet, funny little moments together and apart that keep things moving, I never felt a connection to them or who they were outside of their characteristics.

There aren’t moments where we hear or see how they feel about each other when they’re apart, which makes their ultimate coming together feel rushed rather than of an earned, emotional outcome. If they fight or unburden themselves, it’s not about resentments about the past, but of who they are now. Marcus feels threatened by Sasha’s upper echelon of success, while she calls him out for being too scared to take risks. These animosities get recycled several times, and key moments that should define their thoughts and feelings about each other beyond all that (including their years apart) are thinly played out in blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments that fail to leave any marks. 

What keeps the movie afloat in more than enough ways to make the movie a recommendation are the two leads themselves. Wong is a passionate and fierce comedic talent, giving Sasha a commanding presence in the room, while Park proves a capable and relatable leading man with precise comedic timing to give any scene an extra bit of juice. Even if there isn’t enough emotional mileage gotten out of their dynamic as there could’ve, the two have the natural, sweet comedic chemistry of two best friends, but who can also make those awkward moments settle in. What the two stars bring to the movie that does give it at least some sense of identity from the rest of the pack is their own cultural roots as Asian Americans – particularly when it comes to food. Bonded by the food Marcus’ mother made for them, part of Sasha’s own growth is finding passion in that sense of home – which gives the final tender moments their own flavor.

Around them are a game supporting cast, including James Saito as Marcus’ father and Michelle Buteau, who after being on the scene for years is poised for a meteoric breakout. There are several moments where I laughed out loud, and most of those are thanks to Buteau’s ability to get magic out of any single line of dialogue. Another large chunk of those bursts of joy came from – of all things and people on this planet – is an incredible appearance from Keanu Reeves. With 10-15 minutes on screen, Reeves dives headfirst into poking fun at his cool, ethereal persona, uttering perfect lines like “Do you have anything that plays with time…the concept of time” when ordering food from an ultra-hip restaurant. Now, I say this having seen movies like AVENGERS: ENDGAME this year, but this span of time with Keanu may very well go down as one of the most triumphant movie moments of the year.

So, for what it’s worth, for any fans of the rom-com looking for that next great outing to curl up on the couch and watch with your favorite glass of beverage, ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE will check off all your boxes. You may shed a tear and may even bug your neighbors on the other side of the wall with a few bursts of laughter. The work of the cast and wit of the script are enough to overcome the obvious flaws rooted deeply in rom-com conventions and thin character developments, which stop it from being a unique gem in the crowded field and can indeed bog down everything else about it that works. But again, to those on the pro end of the genre line, and are ready to put in all your chips on another entry, go all in for Wong and Park.


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