Dir; Nahnatchka Khan. Starring; Ali Wong, Randall Park, James Saito. PG-13. Color. 101 min.
“Always Be My Maybe” is a great example of how making a romantic comedy is done. The characters are smart but also flawed. The cliche moments are far more sweet than sour. The intentions in story telling are pure for the most part. To all the “Crazy Rich Asians” fans, this is what a fun Asian-American rom-com looks like once you remove the racism and the lead characters are not complete imbeciles.
We begin in the Chinatown district of San Francisco in 1996. Two grade school friends, Sasha and Marcus, live on the same block. Sasha’s parents are often absent as they work hard to put food on the table. Marcus and his parents, Harry and Judy Kim, have a loving home. Tired of cooking make shift rice and spam dinners, Sasha begins to spend more time at the Kim household than her own. Every night she learns amazing authentic recipes from Mrs. Kim. We will get to that shortly.
A predictable growing up as friends montage ensues but it is well done for the genre. At the end of high school a terrible tragedy occurs as Marcus’s mother passes. The pair are devastated. This is a woman that helped raise both of them dying. In a moment of passion they finally get it on in the back of Marcus’s hand me down Toyota Corolla. In an awkward situation the life-long friends try to grab some burgers. Marcus says several cruel insults in his fragile state and Sasha responds in a typical heartbroken teenager way. Best friends are broken.
Cut to modern day. Using the skills learned from Mrs. Kim, Sasha has become a celebrity chef. Her multiple restaurants are A-List only destinations and she is engaged to Brandon Choi (Daniel Day Kim of “Lost” fame), the top restaurant entrepreneur in the world, whatever that means. Sasha is going home to San Francisco to open a new high end restaurant and days before Choi tells her they should delay the engagement because he wants to explore possible expansion options in Asia and maybe they should “see other people” to make sure the wedding is right.
Sasha goes along because this amazing life of expensive things seems so perfect. Her friend and business partner Veronica (Michelle Buteau), who has known both of our main characters since high school, travels to help the all-star chef prep the new restaurant. She of course has a plan.
On Marcus’s side, he has never left his block. For the last decade Marcus has been taking care of his widower father while still playing gigs with his high school band. Sasha needs an air conditioning system set up at her posh rental house and of course Veronica calls the Kim family for the job. Awkward moments ensue between the pair having not interacted in more than ten years. Poppa Harry “suggests” that Sasha attend Marcus’s concert that night. She says she won’t, but of course she does. Again formula.
A spark happens after the douche fiancee gets tossed. It is not immediate as Sasha has a hilarious stint with a famous celebrity. Let’s just say the term “I punched Keanu Reeves in the face!” is a brilliant cameo. The two reconnect then break-up, and we get a triumphant happy ending. What makes “Always Be My Maybe” better than the 90% of this genre is that writer and co-star Randall Park touches on issues that are not racial or sexually oriented but just plain human.
Start with the parents. Sasha’s are “absent” in a child’s mind then they are free to see her when she is famous. In reality they were doing the best they could to provide and proud of how far she has come. Marcus’s father was devastated by the loss of his mother and Marcus used the responsibility card for years to never pursue his dreams. It takes Mr. Kim yelling “YOU THINK I CAN’T SHOOT A NEEDLE IN MY OWN ASS!” for Marcus to realize at some point you have to take a risk in your own life.
Then we get to the relationship between the main characters. Of course we have the love you/hate you dichotomy. What brings the audience in is the struggle between being afraid to leave your comfort zone versus the fear of constantly moving forward. And that comfort zone is on both ends of the economic spectrum. Yes these characters love each other but can Marcus accept having to hold Sasha’s purse on the runway? Can Sasha accept the attachment to his home that Marcus has? The ending is easy to predict, but the predicaments flow within the story. This is not one of those ‘you lied to me now I’m pouty’ film scenarios.
What I respect most about “Always Be My Maybe” is its intentions. No new ground is broken here and the characters are exaggerated. The heart is what is most apparent. Do you go with your mind or your gut? A question “Always Be My Maybe” does not cheapen. Of course if a rom-com is not your thing then don’t watch this, most of them are terrible anyways. If you want to see one with compassion then MAYBE you should stream this gem.
Suck Factor: 1out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!