The streaming giant’s latest romantic comedy offering, “Always Be My Maybe,” manages to provide us with a unique take on the storied yet often cheesy genre, while also celebrating the cliches that came before. The film stars Randall Park (The Interview) and Ali Wong (who is best known for her Netflix standup special, Baby Cobra), lifelong friends growing up in 1990s San Francisco. They have a playful relationship that’s rooted in their Asian American heritage, but director Nahnatchka Khan’s film isn’t defined by the ethnicity of its leads. Frequently funny, with two leads that have irresistible chemistry, this romantic romp is too irresistible to miss.
After a personal tragedy that defines the narrative trajectory of the film, Marcus (Park) and Sasha (Wong) come together in the back seat of his 1996 Toyota Corolla, only to immediately have a falling out and go down completely separate paths in life. A couple of decades later, Sasha has become a “celebrity chef,” who jet sets across the country opening up restaurants while Marcus is chilling back at home smoking herb, rapping, and working with his adorable father, Harry (James Saito), at their family’s air-conditioning business. In a much lesser comedy, the filmmakers would have their leads be defined by their station in life, but Khan brilliantly brings out the positive and negatives in both of their life choices.
Sasha and Marcus reconnect with the help of her meddling colleague/childhood friend Veronica ( Michelle Buteau), who pushes the old friends to get back together. While the film does fall prey to some labored plot mechanics in order to get these two back together for their numerous awkward encounters, the road to their blossoming romance is bubbly enough to forgive the way the plot got there. She’s rich, he’s a middle-class dude seemingly content with living at home with his dad, but the films find organic ways to convince the audience of why they deserve each other. She has a biting humor and doesn’t revel in her celebrity status, and he’s actually a smooth operator who has an incredibly fun hip-hop band called “Hello, Peril.” Neither character is one note, and each have their own flaws. The humanity of the characters is brought out when the jokes get a bit on the goofy side.
The story covers a lot of plot and thematic ground for a romantic comedy, and manages to throw out quite a few zippy, improvised one-liners that the viewer will relish in.
“Always Be My Maybe” elevates itself by not losing sight of its comedic elements and by allowing all of the humor to be rooted in its characters, who spend the film celebrating the culture of Northern California, from the food to the unique style of hip-hop.
The film is also full of surprises, like a celebrity cameo and an extended role that spoofs their public personas. The diverse casting of the film also makes it a super compelling film to watch.
Romantic comedies have by and large been about sugary, sweet love that doesn’t conform to reality. “Always Be My Maybe” is an unconventional and hilarious break from that common romantic comedy track, and we’re totally here for it.