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The term 'romantic comedy' doesn't simply describe a particular genre of film. More than that, the term often conjures up a particular plot structure in the mind whenever you hear it. We all know what the various plot beats of the movie will be. Of course, in the case of rom-coms, that's potentially less of a bug and more of a feature. When we sit down to watch two people fall in love, we not only know what we're going to get, we largely expect it. Anything that deviates too far runs the risk of being unsatisfying.
While there's usually some sort of hook in the plot that tries to separate one romantic comedy from another, in the end, all that really matters is the chemistry of the lead characters. Do we care enough about these people to go on this familiar journey?
Netflix's newest romantic offering, Always Be My Maybe, wins out in both regards. Leads Randall Park and Ali Wong have fantastic chemistry that will keep all but the most jaded by love engaged to the end. The movie also has an, unfortunately, unique hook, in that it separates itself from the pack of rom-coms simply by not being about white people.
Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (Randall Park) have been friends forever. Neighbors as children, the pair have been inseparable all through school. Sasha's parents own a restaurant but because they're so busy with it, it's Marcus' mother that instills in her a love of cooking. There's a clear chemistry between Sasha and Marcus, but when the pair finally act on it as teenagers, it doesn't go well and causes a schism in the friendship.
Years later, Sasha is now a celebrity chef who has returned to her native San Francisco to open a new restaurant when she runs into her old friend Marcus once again. While things are still awkward, the friendship is still there, as are the stronger feelings that went along with it.
While the fact that both lead characters are Asian could have simply been a gimmick to make Always Be My Maybe stand out, it goes beyond that. Culture is a big part of the story as both Sasha and Marcus are dealing with personal issues that stem largely from the society in which they grew up. Park and Wong have both writing as well as producing credits on Always, and they've clearly made a film that resonates in a personal way.
As a romance Always Be My Maybe succeeds well. The characters are fun and while they're both very different, and certainly have their flaws, there's never any question as to why somebody else would find them attractive. You'll find yourself rooting for both Sasha and Marcus as individuals as well as hoping to see their relationship make it through.
The movie isn't above dealing with the standard tropes of the rom-coms, of course. Both characters start the film with significant others that need to be dealt with. While Sasha's fiancee (Daniel Dae Kim) certainly falls into the all too common "obviously an asshole, why doesn't she see that" category, the character isn't simply an obstacle for an obstacles sake. Rather, he's a reflection on Wong's character that is part of the story.
And while we're talking about the obstacles set in front of our main characters, something does need to be said about Keanu Reeves. If you've seen the trailer, then you know the John Wick star makes an appearance in Always Be My Maybe, and it is one of the highlights of the film. Reeves plays himself, or rather, an amplified and exaggerated version of himself, and he's having as much fun as anybody doing it. Reeves is more than a simple cameo, but he also doesn't overstay his welcome.
As a comedy, Randall Park and Ali Wong are both hilarious. Supporting performances by Michelle Buteau and Deadpool's Karan Soni are too small as both are fantastic whenever they're on screen.
Always Be My Maybe doesn't do anything to reinvent the genre of the romantic comedy, but it gives you exactly what you expect from it and it does it well. The comedy will keep you entertained and the romance will keep you invested. Add in a little Keanu Reeves, and really, what else could you possibly need?