Netflix and Chill... With Your Heart - Always Be My Maybe (REVIEW)
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
It’s no secret that I love romantic comedies, some of my favorite movies are romcoms. Films like Sleepless in Seattle (classic), 50 First Dates (when Sandler was still good), and 27 Dresses (shut up I unapologetically liked it) are movies I can watch again and again. These movies are never meant to be well-crafted cinematic experiences, these are the softer side of the “turn off your brain” popcorn action flicks. Much like how the John Wick series elevated the game for summer blockbuster action flicks… Always Be My Maybe does that for romcoms with conviction, determination, and DIVERSITY!
Starring Ali Wong (Tuca and Bertie, Hard Knock Wife) and Randall Park (Fresh Off the Boat, Ant-Man and the Wasp) as childhood friends Sasha Tran and Marcus Kim. The two were inseparable growing up, falling under the romantic trope of next-door neighbors/girl-next-door. Sasha grew up with largely absent Vietnamese parents while Marcus grew up with Korean-American parents who were more present in his life. This led Sasha to spend more time in the Kim household, acting like the daughter the Kim’s never had. When Marcus’s mother passes away in their last year of High School, this creates a rift between the childhood friends resulting in the two of them losing touch.
While Sasha has grown up to be a mega famous restauranteur and celebrity chef, Marcus never left home and now works for his dad’s company. When Sasha returns to San Francisco to open a new restaurant, her and Marcus are reunited after 16 years of estrangement and after Sasha’s relationship with her fiancé falls apart, this starts our love story between the two former friends.
Overall, Always Be My Maybe dots all the i’s and crosses the t’s you would expect from a romcom. Trope after trope, this has everything from the childhood friend/girl-next-door trope, the differing social and economic classes, the celebrity with the everyman. It couldn’t be tropier if they threw in a storyline where the leads only communicate through e-mail or incorporated Hawaii in some way/shape/form. Tropes get a bad reputation, and I can understand why, but Always Be My Maybe takes those tropes and makes it work so well while letting these choices make sense in the grand narrative.
Typically, a romcom is supposed to feel like a fantasy. Fantasies that come complete with grandiose speeches (it does have one, to be fair) and conflicts that resolve themselves way too easily. While this movie does play with these concepts, it does so in a surprisingly raw and real way. When Marcus goes off on Sasha during the opening of the film after his mother dies and Sasha attempts to say that she lost her too, he goes on the offensive with the “she wasn’t your mom…” speech and bookending it with a “your parents don’t care enough to be around…”; that hurt and I felt that line deep in my soul.
Always Be My Maybe goes to great lengths to establish a socio-economical divide between Sasha and Marcus. Sasha is fabulous, full on Hollywood renting a big house where funnily enough Marcus and his dad are hired to install air-conditioning. While Marcus does play the unmotivated everyman that never left home, he’s never characterized as a loser. Outside of the ever glamorous world of air-con/furnace maintenance, he’s still the front man of a widely popular band plagued by Marcus’s fear of change. Marcus is too scared to even perform in a venue across town, let alone keep pace with Sasha’s jet-setting lifestyle.
One complaint I have with the narrative was while we got to see Marcus go through his own personal change, we never really saw Sasha do the same thing. It felt like the movie went to great lengths to make it seem like Sasha was without fault and their relationship hinged on solely Marcus making changes. On top of never seeing Sasha go through her own soul-searching montage, a resolution between Sasha and her strained relationship with her parents felt rushed. During the film’s opening, they went to great lengths to establish that Sasha’s parents were never home, something that shaped her into the woman she became and further fueled her inability to be alone. It felt tied up neatly with very little conflict, something I wish they explored more.
At the end of the day though, this movie was one I was waiting for from the very first trailer and one that definitely did not disappoint. I love romcoms, but the genre is plagued with a serious lack of representation. Even movies like 50 First Dates, Aloha, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall were the perfect vehicles for POC to take the lead, what with the films being set in Hawaii, yet opted instead for white leads. In the case of Aloha we had the very white Emma Stone play a character named Allison Ng. So to get a romcom with two Asian leads, a movie that follows the tried and true romcom tropes (successfully), I was living for this. Always Be My Maybe was like Notting Hill meets Just Friends with 100% more Asian American representation. This is the romcom I always wanted, here’s hoping for me right?
Not perfect… but perfect for me!