“The past is the past, right?”
Some things just take time to come to fruition and love is of no exception to the rules of fate. You shouldn’t rush what’s naturally meant to be drawn out. Always Be My Maybe operates on that line of thinking, and Netflix’s latest rom-com uses strong characters to compensate for the otherwise humdrum world in which these captivating people exist. It is by no means a classic in the genre, but that doesn’t take away from the progressive ideals and the few big laughs delivered along the way. Always Be My Maybe is the type of film you’d happily date time and time again because it’s funny and pleasant and has a caustic wit; I just don’t think the film has that indescribable “it factor” you’d want to marry.
Friends and neighbors and first crushes since childhood, Marcus Kim (Randall Park) and Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) grew up as besties and eventually hooked up one night in the back of his broken-down Toyota Corolla. Things were never the same between them. Sasha went from being an independent little girl, frying SPAM and topping steamed white rice with furikake (a small detail that speaks volumes about her culture and taste) to becoming a bona fide celebrity chef. Marcus still lives at home more than a decade after the passing of his mother, convinced that he needs to care for his dad. Together they have an HVAC company and Marcus performs musical gigs with his timeworn band in the small clubs of San Francisco. That he and Sasha cross paths isn’t surprising; it’s inevitable.
Always Be My Maybe is a bit awkward and clumsily real when it comes to the reunion between Marcus and Sasha. There’s still tension present after all these years, and the sudden face to face confrontation plays out how you might expect. He stumbles and fumbles his words and she’s polished to the point of being a veneer of her former self. The movie really works because even when they’re comfortable being friends, there’s always an air and an invisible string pulling them towards one another. Marcus has to decide if he should continue his relationship with the bohemian Jenny (Vivian Bang). Sasha falls for Keanu Reeves (absolutely stealing the movie as a douchey version of his own superstar self) but she clearly doesn’t love him either. It’s almost empowering as an audience member when you know what’s best for the people up on the screen, and when you care about them enough to hope that they find real happiness. In that respect, the film knocks it out of the park.
Personally, Always Be My Maybe didn’t get me to laugh as much I had expected from a comedy starring two performers as hilarious as Park and Wong, nor did it make me swoon the way I so easily do with most romances. But it did get me to thinking. Through food, through disparate upbringings, and through challenged gender norms, director Nahnatchka Khan uses the romantic comedy genre to shed light on the typically underappreciated demographics of most major cities. Of the impact that they make and how all of our experiences are shared even when they’re different, because as the film shows us, not all vanilla stories have to be told through the eyes of white folks. Always Be My Maybe doesn’t inspire love, but it does urge us to get out of our comfort zone and to make an effort. A message like that is worthwhile in and of itself.
“You don’t want to wonder, ‘what if?'”
Rating: 3.5 out of 5