Netflix established that it’s a platform for all the cheesy, light, and feel-good romantic-comedy movies with recent global hits: Summer Of Love, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Kissing Booth. In the streaming giant’s latest installment in its overwhelming library of rom-com movies comes Always Be My Maybe.
Always Be My Maybe, a wordplay around Mariah Carey’s all-time hit Always Be My Baby stars Ali Wong (Sasha Tran) and Randall Park (Marcus Kim)—an all-Asian couple setting the new groundwork for Asian representation in TV Shows but albeit missing the usual romance in a typical Rom-Com movie.
Sasha and Marcus are childhood best friends who conveniently lived aside each other in 1990s San Francisco and lived happily as so until their teenage years. However, after the death of Marcus’ mom, the pair decided to release some of their emotions after her burial which was a rather morbid and awkward one-night stand at the back of his old Toyota Corolla— leading to a heated argument that drifted the pair apart.
Years later, with both characters in their 30s, Marcus is still living with his father and helping him with their “heat and air” business; all the while playing in the same band he was a part of in high school (if he’s not too busy smoking weed). Meanwhile, Sasha has become a successful celebrity chef opening restaurants all over the country and engaged to restaurant developer Brandon Choi (Daniel Dae Kim).
After an unexpected reunion, Marcus and Sasha find themselves rekindling the spark that was not completely lost when they parted ways.
In terms of representation, Always Be My Maybe does a spectacular job. Polygon describes the film as “Asian-ness is no longer their sole defining feature. Wong and Park […] prove their mettle as comedians — are endlessly funny, and aren’t relegated to being the token Asian in the cast. Heritage isn’t hidden or otherwise elided, but there’s no impetus to describe Always Be My Maybe as “the Asian romcom;” it’s just a romcom that happens to have people of Asian descent in it.”
There were also hints at how Asian-American culture has changed throughout the years. Unlike the numerous Asian-centric films and TV shows available, Always Be My Maybe displayed that, not all Asian parents implement tiger parenting in the household, instead, a culture that’s hard-working and affectionate towards their children. Moreover, Asian parents don’t drill their children toward success through stereotypical ways such as proceeding to become a lawyer, doctor, etc. — they let them follow their passions such as culinary and music.
The film was a great comedy but lacked romance. Wong and Park were a hilarious tandem but failed to deliver the chemistry that allows viewers to swoon over each other’s affection. The Guardian says that “we’re perfectly happy for them to stick to being maybes and when they turn into, ahem, babies, it doesn’t feel like the heartwarming finale we’re after.”
Unfortunately, the film was encased in conventional and repetitive Rom-Com storylines that restricted it from fully taking advantage of the duo’s comedic tandem.
Always Be My Maybe emphasized primarily on the individual struggles and emotional baggage of both characters that resulted from childhood trauma. The Vox elaborates that “therein lies the problem for the two: As easy at it may seem for Sasha to come swooping in and begin a new life with Marcus, she’s frustrated that he’s given up on himself. He’s not the person she once knew him to be, and she knows he’s settled for less. He feels similarly about her, and how she’s become someone so closed off and someone who measures everything in business terms of success and failure.
From a different perspective, the film could be accepted as a concept on how people experience and get through midlife crises and overcome insecurities. It’s an exciting twist with how their individual lives knaw at their relationship.
Always Be My Maybe is written by Wong, co-star Randall Park, and Michael Golamco, and directed by Nahnatchka Khan, who also wrote four seasons of Fresh Off the Boat.