Why do romcoms carry such overarching appeal for audiences the world over? I put forth that the certain predictabilities with this genre are like a cozy security blanket for viewers, something they can curl up under and breathe a sigh of relief. Where Netflix’s latest feature film, Always Be My Maybe, is unoriginal its cast and brainy banner is a sweet shelter from the clichéd plot director Nahnatchka Khan strings viewers along.
Early life in San Francisco was uncomplicated for Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (Randall Park). Their young bond grew from neighbors to best friends. Sasha, a latchkey kid, builds a close relationship with Marcus’ mom, Judy (Susan Park) and dad, Harry (James Saito) and is equally devastated when Judy suddenly passes away. Tragedy brings forth the pairs most honest emotions (ok, physical attraction), exchanged in the back of Marcus’ less than luxurious Corolla. The pillow talk is cringe-worthy, and the fast food follow up even more of a disaster. Harsh words separate the sweethearts, a rift that isn’t mended until much time has passed.
Now adults, the careers and life tracks for Sasha and Marcus still seem to be worlds away. She’s a celebrity chef, opening up a new restaurant in her hometown while he has opted to work in HVAC with his aging father (easily the coolest character in the whole movie – just my thoughts). But old flames are still burning for this witty pair. Each still can pinpoint the weaknesses they’ve spent years denying (the true sign of any romcom soul mate).
Always Be My Maybe manages to elevate itself from stale to smile-worthy with several progressive points. Beyond the uber-talented majority Asian cast, some who are making their big screen debut (yes, yes, yes!), each of the leads feel balanced. Neither makes a sacrifice of their dreams to be able to love each other but instead work on themselves to meet in the middle. No trite Asian tropes, just a film that allows actors to find their groove and genuine voice. This sometimes tender and sometimes banal film is an easy watch that will keep you smiling, but also make audiences feel that underrepresented viewers still deserve more and even better. Here’s hoping that like Crazy Rich Asians, this film can be a springboard to more feature films with a more developed script.
Oh, and the cameo from Keanu Reeves is everything you never knew you needed.