Cast: Ali Wong, Randall Park, James Saito, Michelle Buteau
Director: Nahnatchka Khan
If you know me, you’ll know I’m exactly the first person to line up and see a cheesy rom-com. Sure I liked Crazy Rich Asians last year, but that seemed a lot more like an exception rather than the norm. Well, Always Be My Maybe brings a new high to the genre and may be one of the best rom-coms of the decade. Balanced, honest, and truly funny, Always Be My Maybe takes a pretty standard plot and elevates it with true chemistry, humor, and surprises to make Khan’s directorial debut a smash hit.
The film follows Sasha Tran (Wong) and Marcus Kim (Park), two childhood friends who over time drift apart and move on to separate phases of their lives. When they are reunited 16 years after their last moments together, they must dig through the issues that caused them to drift apart and see if either one is really the right person for them. One of the main issues I have with rom-coms is it never feels like the characters have any sort of connection to one another. It’s like a studio sat everyone down and said, “you’re going to play these roles and you’re going to like it.” That never seems to be the case with Always Be My Maybe as the relationship between Sasha and Marcus feels authentic and real. While the cultural elements add to these details, the performances from Wong and Park make them somewhat irrelevant as the highs and lows of their lives would’ve made sense regardless of their backgrounds or the environments they’ve been placed in. Sasha and Marcus each have their own real, human issues that they need to overcome and it makes the movie multidimensional and larger than the screen. While that covers the romantic part, the comedy is just as relevant to the success of this movie. This may be the first movie of 2019 where I was legitimately laughing at jokes. Not just chuckling here or there, but literal knee-slappers littered throughout the majority of the film. While Wong and Park are responsible for most of these moments, the inclusion of Keanu Reeves playing himself has to be one of the greatest minor roles of the year. He embraces the ridiculousness associated with the way he’s perceived by audiences and dials it up to 11 much to the enjoyment of viewers. His ironic super-seriousness injects a fresh burst of energy in the middle of the film and isn’t just used for comic relief, but as a legitimate plot device as well. I don’t know what strings Khan had to pull to get a cast like that in her first movie, but I’m stunned with her ability to take the script and turn it into one of the best ways to spend 102 minutes this year. I’m sure it helps that Wong and Park wrote the script and are invested in their characters, but Always Be My Maybe has easily established itself as one of the most charming and standout films of the year.
Overall, Netflix is known for producing a lot of movies, but many of them have ended up as duds for one reason or another. Always Be My Maybe is from that and should be mandatory watching for everyone who has a Netflix account. Sure adamant haters of the genre will probably be dug in and protest this movie’s existence, but trust me as someone who’s generally against these types of movies, you won’t regret watching it. Always Be My Maybe can get the saddest of viewers happy and wanted to hit “watch again” as soon as they’re done with their initial runthrough.
Overall Score: 9/10