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Randall Park and Ali Wong play childhood friends who reunite after 18 years in Netflix rom-com <i>Always Be My Maybe.</i>
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Netflix’s ‘Always Be My Maybe’ Is a Refreshing Take on the Rom-Com

The film stars comedian Ali Wong and ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ actor Randall Park.

Updated
Movie Reviews
4 min read

Netflix’s ‘Always Be My Maybe’ Is a Refreshing Take on the Rom-Com

When the trailer for Always Be My Maybe – the latest in Netflix’s romantic comedy revival – dropped, it raised expectations for two reasons. The first was its leads, comedy star Ali Wong and Fresh of the Boat’s Randall Park, whose chemistry was instantly palpable. The other, Neo Constantine John Wick Keanu Reeves’ well-timed cameo (the trailer dropped around the same time as John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum).

So does it deliver? The short answer is yes.

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Directed by Fresh Off the Boat creator Nahnatchka Khan, Always Be My Maybe builds upon a When Harry Met Sally-esque set-up and follows childhood friends Sasha (Ali Wong) and Marcus (Randall Park) who, after awkwardly losing their virginity to each other as teenagers in the back of the latter’s Corolla, go their separate ways and are estranged till they bump into each other 18 years later.

30-something Sasha is a successful celebrity chef who flits from one city to the next, alternating between setting up new restaurants and red carpet appearances. Marcus, on the other hand, is living a spectacularly unambitious existence. He works with his dad (when he’s not in his room dancing and smoking pot) and spends his nights playing mediocre gigs with his band Hello Peril.

Ali Wong and Randall Park in <i>Always Be My Maybe</i>.
Ali Wong and Randall Park in Always Be My Maybe.
(Photo Courtesy: Netflix)
Though the events that surround Sasha and Marcus’ inevitable reunion seem rushed, once they get together, it’s easy to forgive the haste. This is because ‘Always Be My Maybe’ shines when Wong and Park share screen time together. The former’s bold personality, which we’ve seen in her stand-up specials ‘Baby Cobra’ and ‘Hard Knock Wife’, complements a softer Park, who moves from goofy to vulnerable in a heartbeat. Both bring an endearing authenticity to their characters that makes it easy to buy into their story.

Incidentally, Wong and Park’s friendship dates back to their college days when they were both part of the same theatre group at UCLA.

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‘Always Be My Maybe’ is by no means perfect but there’s plenty that works in its favour. Its effortless comedic moments stand out – from physical comedy (Ali Wong as a teenaged Sasha singing along in mock seriousness to RnB crooner Di Angelo) to throwaway lines and visual gags poking fun at the absurdity of hipster culture (“How does an Asian person even cultivate dreadlocks on their head?”). Keanu Reeves’ cameo (Keameo?) riffs on these elements, taking the farce to (hilariously) illogical ends.

Shoutout to Marcus’ hip hop band which earnestly dispenses lyrical gems like “Hello, my name is Marcus/With lyrics for your carcass,” or “Bounce back like a tennis ball/Bounce back like a basketball/Bounce back like a soccer ball/Or really any other ball except a football,” all set to terribly catchy tunes. Can we get real-life album, please? Or at least a Soundcloud link?

Keanu Reeves makes a hilarious cameo in the film.
Keanu Reeves makes a hilarious cameo in the film.
(Photo Courtesy: Netflix)
In many ways, the film is a progressive take on the traditional rom-com. It embraces inclusivity and cultural specificity without reducing its largely non-white cast to immigrant tropes.

Wong, who has written and co-produced Always Be My Maybe with Park, put it best in an interview with Vulture: “What happens when you populate a movie with a lot of Asian-American people is that they get to be people. They don’t have to be the Asian person in the movie.”

It’s refreshing to see a romantic comedy give its female protagonist agency. Sasha is unapologetic about her success and isn’t willing to toss away years of hard work in the name of love. She also calls out Marcus for his lack of ambition and his unwillingness to step out of his comfort zone. When the two briefly split, it’s Marcus – and not Sasha – who is shown mourning the loss of the relationship, mostly by making a fool of himself at his band’s expense. The screenplay also neatly flips the trope of the ‘grand gesture’ at the end, which makes the pay off that much more rewarding.

The plot ultimately requires no grand sacrifices to be made but rather encourages the two to address their respective shortcomings and meet each other halfway.

It’s these wins that make the film’s flaws – the screenplay is occasionally stilted and certain events are glaringly forced – seem less egregious than the many pitfalls of a traditional rom-com. Always Be My Maybe is ultimately still a frothy flick, but one that’s a step in the right direction.

Always Be My Maybe streams on Netflix from 31 May.

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