The Netflix Original Always Be My Maybe gives us a reason for watching rom-coms again. A modern riff on “When Harry Met Sally.”
Set in San Francisco, Always Be My Maybe is a story of childhood sweethearts who go their separate ways only to meet up fifteen years later. Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (Randall Park) were best friends who, as teenagers, had sex for the first time and then stopped talking to each other. Marcus is now a dorky musician still living at home with his widowed dad, and working in his dad’s business. Sasha is a renowned chef with successful restaurants on both the East and West Coasts. Sasha’s manager-friend calls an airconditioning service to install a system in their rented mansion and voilá–there is Marcus.
Sasha’s “non-denominational pan-Asian fusion” restaurant “Saintly Fare”, soon to open in San Francisco, caters to the high-end beautiful people. When the new menus are ready, she tells her assistant to print them on rice paper: “White people eat that shit up,” she says half- jokingly. And Always Be My Maybe is rich with biting, laugh-out loud dialogue of a similar vein.
And –will wonders never cease–Sasha is a successful woman pursuing a career without subordinating her professional aspirations to her relationships with men. Yet, as is the standard in rom-com stories, Sasha does not realize her heart still beats faster for Marcus.
Sasha is enjoying her friends and her success. She still has fondness for Marcus’s dad and the memories of her childhood with Marcus. She’s vulnerable, but no-nonsense, determined, and motivated to continue her successful trajectory in building a restaurant empire.
And then enters Keanu Reeves, Marcus’s competition for Sasha, and his worst nightmare. In a delicious parody, Keanu Reeves plays himself as a celebrity who knows he is charming and a babe-magnet. This is a wild comedic turn for him–bringing back his over-the-top performance in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” from over thirty years ago.
The writing kicks into high gear here, with self-mocking wit that avoids the “saggy middle” of many narratives, but particularly of rom-coms. Always Be My Maybe holds on to its central question–can best friends become lovers? And at times answers in whispers, uncomfortably close to bruising the hearts of both Sasha and Marcus. Authenticity isn’t sacrificed for a laugh.
Minor characters besides Keanu Reeves add to the extraordinary humor and one-line zingers. There is Brandon Choi, a highly successful restaurateur, more focused on the Silicon Valley zeal of an entrepreneur than on his fiancée. There’s Marcus’s girlfriend Jenny, an Asian American hippie with dreadlocks.
Always Be My Maybe is simultaneously uproarious and touchingly real. There is no “maybe” about it. This rom-com is just too good to miss.
Note: Released on Netflix May 29, 2019