Out of Netflix’s hit or miss original movie, it seems to get romantic comedies just right. The considerably entertaining Set It Up is an example of rom-com success. Netflix’s romantic comedy about two estranged best friends getting a second chance to rekindle an old flame that blends comedy, culture, and social commentary continues that run.
(This Review is Spoiler-Free)
Always Be My Maybe is about childhood friends, Sasha (Ali Wong) and Marcus (Randall Park), who have not been in touch since a brief teenage fling ended badly. Sixteen years later, the now vastly different friends reconnect and attempt to act on their lingering feelings.
Sasha Tran is the girl next door, becoming fast friends with her neighbor, Marcus Kim, starting with her coming over for dinner when she was home alone. Their humble beginnings over food and family and how fast and close the friends become going into the teenage years is refreshing for as a viewer, reminding how simple things used to be. However, once those hormones begin to rage, that’s when things become complicated in the back of Marcus’ smelly, beat-up Corolla. It’s as awkward as you might think but there is more to it.
Sixteen years later, Sasha has found success as a celebrity chef, parlaying her love of food into a million-dollar company. However, her love life isn’t as bright after her engagement is broken off by a narcissistic chef (Daniel Dae Kim). And when your heart is broken, where do you go? Home. Returning to San Francisco, she reconnects with Marcus. While Sasha found fame, Marcus’ life is at a standstill. He’s still living at home and working with his father, fear of success and self-imposed limits on his confidence have kept him in a place that he’s become far too comfortable with. At first, they are reluctant to reconnect, the duo eventually finds their groove.
The chemistry between Wong and Park (who also serve as screenwriters of the film) works brilliantly that you pull for their relationship once they reconnect. Both actors are primarily known for their comedic work and they are completely in their wheelhouse with lively banter. Leaning into their characters’ vulnerabilities is where their best work is done. While Park is already established on the small screen, he earned his leading man status with charm and accessibility. Wong declared that she could be a leading woman with this movie with a real and resonating role, grace and beauty hiding underneath designer cat-eye glasses.
This movie actually delves into the reality of love, something that the genre doesn’t regularly tap into. Director Nahnatchka Khan’s film feels progressive in many ways. Women aren’t pitted against each other, fighting for the affections of a man. Neither protagonist has to give up a part of themselves for the other’s happiness. Marcus and Sasha, each with their own flaws that holds them back, they are forced to do the necessary changes in order to meet each other in the middle, completing each other. But what romantic comedy isn’t without a rival? Given Sasha’s celebrity status, there is a celebrity guest: Mr. Keanu Reeves. Playing an exaggerated version of himself, he’s hysterical with his ridiculous comedic chops.
The film’s tone shifts between amusing and touching seamlessly that it rarely drags. There is observational humor about the city and culturally specific, self-reflective jokes about Asian-American Culture that you can’t help but nod and laugh at.
Let’s be honest: if you’ve seen one romantic comedy, you’ve seen them all; especially with best friends. From My Best Friend’s Wedding to Just Friends, this cliche has been embraced fully. In those films, one party resorts to outlandish grand gestures in order to win over the more reluctant party. While there are grand gestures that will pull at the heart strings, this film still feels original. What made this film refreshing is the less lopsided — and more naturally developed — situation for the characters. Blending classic rom-com elements along with the savory aspects of Asian-American culture and characters being on equal footing as partners sets it apart. Always Be My Maybe is a Netflix date night that you want to go on.
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