Ali Wong and Randall Park stumble and shine in frothy rom-com Always Be My Maybe: EW review
With all due respect to heavyweight Oscar bait like Roma, Netflix seems to have found its true purpose in original movie programming over the past year: clever, endlessly meme-able rom-coms meant to be watched on the floor in your weird pajamas.
Set It Up, Someone Great, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: these (and anything Sandra Bullock can put a bird or a blindfold on) are what most subscribers come home to Postmates and a warm laptop for. Always Be My Maybe lands somewhere in the elder-millennial sweet spot of that continuum — and at the same time, joins a burgeoning if still too-small club of mainstream movies centered without any special pomp or circumstance on Asian-American characters.
Ali Wong (who first blew up on Netflix, fittingly, with her wildly popular 2016 standup special Baby Cobra) stars as Sasha, and Fresh Off the Boat’s Randall Park is Marcus; best friends since they were elementary-school neighbors in San Francisco, the pair stumbles in a teenage transition to romance, and loses touch for over a decade. By then she’s a successful chef in L.A. with an expanding restaurant empire and a fiancé (Daniel Dae Kim) straight out of a mail-order catalog for silver foxes; he’s a stoner who still lives at home with his dad and plays dive bars with his high school band.
When Sasha comes back to the Bay Area to launch a new outpost of her Asian fusion cuisine, they reunite inevitably and — at least at first — unenthusiastically. Anyone with a well-creased rom-com road map knows where all this is headed, but in the meantime we have a smorgasbord of eccentric friends, lovers, and exes to meet (including Michelle Buteau as Sasha’s wry, heavily pregnant manager, and Vivian Bang as the dreadlocked bohemian hanging off Marcus’ neck like a medicated koala).
The stuff of a thousand future Twitter gifs, though, is a featured appearance by Keanu Reeves. It’s better not to know too much about his role going in, other than that nearly everything about it has the winking air quotes of a movie star playing directly to his own storied Hollywood history, and that it is for the most part ridiculously fun.
That, and the weaponized charm of the two leads, keep the hastily assembled paper plane of a plot afloat, if not exactly flying straight for its 100-minute runtime. Director Nahnatcha Khan comes largely from television (Fresh off the Boat, Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23), and there’s a small-screen feel to her set pieces, as well as a tendency to let sitcom-level gags go on too long.
To be fair, though, a small screen is exactly what the movie’s audience will be sitting in front of, in whichever pants they want (or no pants at all) — happily watching Wong and Park stumble their way toward Maybe-dom. B
Always Be My Maybe