Always Be My Maybe (2019)
Director: Nahnatchka Khan
Screenwriters: Michael Golamco, Randall Park, Ali Wong
Starring: Ali Wong, Randall Park, James Saito, Michelle Buteau, Vivian Bang, Keanu Reeves, Susan Park, Daniel Dae Kim, Karan Soni, Charlyne Yi, Lyrics Born, Casey Wilson
A picture very much in the mould of Netflix’s recent spate of culturally relevant, progressive and modernised rom-coms, Always Be My Maybe offers a self-conscious glimpse into Asian-American culture through the eyes of its passionate authorial leading duo Ali Wong and Randall Park (the real-life friends behind the script and the faces leading the charge in front of the camera), and thus provides a watchable 101 minute respite from the stresses of day to day life even if it may not stretch any genre-specific boundaries. This isn’t the best rom-com Netflix have ever released, but it is a useful addition to an ever-growing catalogue of alternatives to the theatrical experience and it may even feature the greatest cameo put to screen this decade.
Centred around the growing up and growing apart of Sasha (Wong) and Marcus (Park), Always Be My Maybe borrows the tired, trope-riddled formula of rom-coms from decades past and applies it to the relatively unfamiliar setting of the Asian-American family. Childhood best friends turned crushes Sasha and Marcus grow apart following a one night stand, not speaking for some 16 years before Sasha’s return home to San Francisco to open another one of her incredibly successful restaurants. Will Sasha be able to maintain her glamorous lifestyle while reacquainting herself with her hometown and its residents, namely Marcus? Will Marcus be able to accept how much she has changed?
Much of the joy in watching a rom-com comes from the reassuring knowledge that one way or another the couple will eventually fall in love, and often the journey is therefore the most important aspect of such a film. In Always Be My Maybe, Wong and Park offer enough to push through the picture’s narrative sludge, each offering performances clearly boosted by their passion to tell the story. It becomes endearing to watch, and while the comedy is far from note-perfect it does offer just enough to provide the pair with an assist that allows for the conveniences of the plot to be forgiven. Things may happen with or without character motivations in mind, but there is a genuine sense of connection that is formed by the film’s end that cannot be overlooked or under-praised, the careful construction of the film to equally feature both male and female leads being the cherry on top of a quite satisfying cake.
Speaking of cherries…
Netflix may have just found their very own self-promotional cherry in the idea of including incredible actor cameos in their movies to boost the shareability of their new releases; do not be surprised to see Netflix dictate that cameos must be included in their upcoming slate of crowd-pleasing films.
The moment in question from Always Be My Maybe has been somewhat of a viral sensation, the construction of the moment and the timing of the film’s release making for a delectable piece of cinema for both fan and production company, the popularity of said scene acting as promotion for the film in its own right. Should you be one of the unfortunate few who have yet to be introduced to this quite special moment, try to see Always Be My Maybe before it is spoiled, as it is by far the movie’s biggest laugh and most memorable moment. Netflix have spent years researching ways to get us to watch their new releases as they’re released; who’d have known that all it would take was a well timed cameo from a star eager to poke fun at themselves?
Arguably the most popular of Netflix’s 2019 rom-com catalogue thus far, Always Be My Maybe is hardly one of the company’s best, though it does fill a gap for those wanting the reassurances rom-coms never fail to deliver. With Kim and Park at its centre, the movie exceeds what it may have become without them, yet it never excels to quite the degree that some of the more well-praised Netflix rom-coms have in the past 12 to 18 months, namely Set It Up and To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.
So far as easy-watching movies go, Always Be My Maybe offers an inoffensive and easy-to-digest answer, and one that sits at your finger tips. It is a convenient movie to watch at your convenience, but were it to be in the cinema it wouldn’t be one worth rushing out for.