Directed by: Nahnatchka Khan
Written by: Ali Wong, Randall Park, Michael Golamco
Starring: Ali Wong, Randall Park, James Saito, Michelle Buteau, Keanu Reeves
Romantic comedies have their well-known tropes, whether it be the two future lovers literally bumping into each other, or the arbitrary fight they must have in order to receive the rom-com label. Randall Park and Ali Wong show their awareness of these tropes and fully use them to their advantage in a film that presents nothing groundbreaking, but becomes a delight nonetheless.
This film follows Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (Randall Park), as childhood friends, who end up having their first sexual encounter together as teenagers. After that awkward connection, Sasha moves on and becomes a very successful chef while Marcus still stays at home with the same band without making much traction. After Sasha returns to her hometown and runs into Marcus again, the story truly begins.
Plenty of familiar tropes run throughout this film, but it succeeds for me because of the story made by the stars who co-wrote the film as well. Instead of having bland characters with no real substance, Always Be My Maybe shines a light on a demographic barely shown in any stories of American romance. It really dives into Asian culture and the identity aspect of what it means to be authentically Asian, but also what potential each character has. Instead of creating anything familiar, the film looks at many of the stereotypes of Asian characters in western cinema and defies it. For example, Marcus’s father isn’t a strict father who would only allow his son to be a doctor and if not he would be considered a failure to his family. No, he has more depth and shows himself to be a lovable man who wants his son to be happy and make the career choice that would fulfill him. While it may be a small feature to a character, it starts to breaks down the stereotypes Hollywood has perpetuated about Asian individuals. It allows these characters to be actual people and not a caricature people seem to believe applies across the board. These liberties occur on multiple occasions, which adds freshness to its story because of its contribution to societal perceptions.
One cannot talk about this film without mentioning the greatest performance within it, which came from Keanu Reeves portraying Keanu Reeves. With one of the greatest entrances of film history, it shows his willingness to laugh at the persona and aura built around him. Every scene of his stood out and was outright hilarious because it shows his character as a person and unafraid to have some fun. Whether he’s crying about eating his food or being very philosophical about absolutely nothing, Keanu displays his comedic prowess to go along with his action star status. An incredible addition to the story and a wonderful surprise that I’m eternally grateful for.
This story, however, belongs to the two stars and co-writers, as they put such a fun romantic-comedy together. It speaks about the success of women and how it impacts their partners and even tries to define what it means to be successful. It has plenty of heart and lands some wonderful zingers throughout. Ali Wong has proven herself to be quite the comedic talent and I look forward to her continuing to use her voice and create meaningful stories filled with comedy.