I’m not a huge “romantic comedy” fan by any means, but I was sufficiently intrigued to watch Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe this past weekend, and my wife and I found it very entertaining, i.e., the perfect “date night” viewing material. Here are several observations that we’ve arrived at while discussing the movie over the last few days.
Arguably the film’s biggest buzz surrounds Keanu Reeves’ cameo, and for obvious reasons: it’s hilarious. Reeves’ willingness to lampoon both himself and his “action star” image (e.g., the Speed reference) was never not funny, and adds to his growing reputation as one of Hollywood’s truly nice guys. I have to agree with Stephen Amell here:
I’m not Asian, but I thought the “celebration of all things Asian” (as one Facebook acquaintance described it) added a fresh, interesting angle to the typical romcom formula. Put another way, details that felt pretty specific, culturally speaking — e.g., the various meals prepared, the behavior of children at parties — allowed for jokes and other emotional beats that wouldn’t have otherwise existed.
It wasn’t a big aspect of the film, but I appreciated the relationship between Marcus and his father (who stole almost every scene he was in). I might be overthinking things, but it had aspects that riffed on the filial piety that’s a major facet of Asian cultures, but there was also a warmth and familiar-ness that felt pretty universal.
I found the central romance between Marcus Kim (Randall Park) and Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) believable enough. What I found most interesting was how Marcus wasn’t threatened by Sasha’s success (hence the clever “will you let me hold your purse” riff on the typical proposal scene). His reluctance to be with her — as far as I could tell — had less to do with feeling overshadowed by her obvious success, and more to do with his own issues and comfort levels.
At the same time, Sasha’s success and career pursuits weren’t portrayed in a simply good or bad manner. You got to see her celebrate and enjoy her well-deserved success as a restauranteur even as you caught glimpses of the loneliness and emptiness that came with her focus on her career.
Finally, in the trailer, Sasha’s fiancé (Daniel Dae Kim) calls off their wedding because he didn’t want to get married at all. In the movie, however, Sasha breaks up with him, not simply because he doesn’t want to get married, but because she realizes that he’s more interested in her business than her. It’s a seemingly trivial difference, but it made her fiancé less of an outright bad guy and more a clueless and self-absorbed doofus. Indeed, it was kind of refreshing to watch a movie where there really wasn’t an outright villain or someone that you felt compelled or obliged to root against.
I won’t lie: both my wife and I got a little choked up when Sasha reveals the name of her latest restaurant in the film’s final moments. It was a nice callback to the film’s opening scene, and a way to hint that Marcus and Sasha’s relationship (romantic or otherwise) was, in fact, bigger than just the two of them.
All in all, if you and your significant other are looking for something straightforwardly enjoyable to watch on a weekend evening, than you could do far worse than pouring a couple glasses of wine, gathering some snacks, and settling in for a night with Marcus, Sasha, and Keanu.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.