“Change is a coming!” and what a healthy change indeed. Following in the footsteps of Crazy Rich Asians, another Asian-led cast is ready to break barriers and push genre limitations with Always Be My Maybe.
Everything about this film is a breath of fresh air. Hollywood has been notoriously stuck in a time warp delivering the same tired stories with bland characters and nauseatingly eurocentric tropes. This film is dominated by Asian talent, intelligent women, and relatable life challenges set to the beauty of San Francisco.
The story is about two best friends, Sasha (Ali Wong) and Marcus (Randall Park), who live next door to each other in the city. While both sets of parents ran local businesses, Sasha’s were always absent, leaving her to be a constant presence at Marcus’s house. His parents, Harry (James Saito) and Judy (Susan Park) always welcomed her for dinner. She even helped with the cooking under Judy’s tutelage.
As they grow up, the two become inseparable. That close bond crumbled to pieces after they had a fallout which quite honestly, could’ve been prevented (but a situation that’s very common between girl/guy friends). After 15 years apart, their paths cross again when she returns to San Francisco to open a restaurant. Now a celebrity chef, she runs into Marcus after her publicist Veronica (Michelle Buteau ) setups a not so subtle appointment to get her A/C repaired at her rental home.
There’s a beautiful subtlety in the way that certain elements were delivered to keep the story from following the usual rom-com template. The incompatibility with the partners they chose in absentia, the periodic injections of Asian culture, having the lyrics to a certain Mariah Carey track play out onscreen, and the most important of all, showing a man having to make sacrifices instead of a woman. All too often we’re forced to see women give up their dreams, jobs, or place of residence to appease a man. Ali Wong and Co. were not having that.
The soundtrack is a beautiful reflection of The Bay Area. The opening scene zapped me back to my teens with the Souls of Mischief track, “93 til Infinity.” I guarantee you’re not going to see two Asians, on-screen, fall in love to D’Angelo’s, “How Does It Feel” before watching scenes change to Too Short’s, “Blow The Whistle” anywhere else. This was an authentic, fresh California move that broke away from romantic comedy norms.
Directed by Nahnatchka Khan, Always Be My Maybe shows all the delight and painful intricacies of being young. It’s full of joy and carefree but can also be awkward and hard to communicate. The main message that stood out to me was the truth in its simplicity. Had there been some honest, open conversations, so much could’ve been avoided. But, that’s easy for me to say as an adult. As a teenager, let’s face it, it’s hard to communicate and express your feelings, especially when your best friend is the opposite sex. That’s what makes Marcus and Sasha so relatable, along with their sense of humor and how they work around their problems.
I give Always Be My Maybe a 9 out of 10. Women rule in this film and bring all the comedy and awesomeness you could ask for. It’s real, educational, heartwarming and extremely funny. There are some hilarious surprises waiting on you and be sure to stick around for the credits. The film is available on Netflix on May 31, 2019.
Photos: Ed Araquel for Netflix