An Honest Review Of 'Always Be My Maybe'

Ali Wong + Randall Park + Keanu Reeves?! Let's do this!
PHOTO: Always Be My Maybe/Netflix

The Long Plot, Sans Spoilers

Young Sasha Tran comes home to find a note from her parents: They're working late so she should just go ahead and make herself dinner (Spam and rice, of course)…and that no, she can't watch TV. Luckily, just as she's about to settle in and have her sad meal in front of the TV, next-door neighbor and best friend Marcus Kim invites her over for a real home-cooked dinner at his house.

After helping Mrs. Kim make kimchi-jjigae, they sit around the table, and you can immediately tell this is a regular thing, that Sasha pretty much spends most of her time at the Kims' and she's practically part of the family.

What comes next is a montage of the two growing up in San Francisco, with plenty of shots establishing just how tight Sasha and Marcus are and Sasha's close relationship with Mrs. Kim. The montage ends when the two are in their teens and they learn the heartbreaking news that Mrs. Kim has died in an accident. Mr. Kim, Marcus, and Sasha are devastated, but Marcus takes it especially hard.

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To help take his mind off his grief, Sasha invites him out one night. Somehow they end up in an empty parking lot, in Marcus' Toyota Corolla, with Sasha scatting to D'Angelo. After they swap a couple of unexpected kisses, they make out in the back of Marcus' car. 

The aftermath is as awkward as you'd expect when two best friends lose their virginity to one another: It's a little uncomfortable and a bit cringeworthy, but nothing a trip to Burger King can't fix. But before they can even order their Whoppers, their post-coital embarrassment escalates into a huge fight that ends the friendship. 

16 years later, we find that Sasha has become a celebrity chef with a hot fiancé, but we learn that not everything is as peachy as it seems when he asks for a "break" just as she's discussing wedding bouquets. He suggests they see other people before the wedding to really find out if they're meant for one another. Sasha sees through the charade, but goes into denial mode and agrees to the ridiculous arrangement.

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Meanwhile, we discover that Marcus' life has stalled. He's still pretty much where we—and Sasha—left him 16 years ago: He still lives with his dad, he works for his dad's heating and air service company, and he spends his time smoking weed in his old bedroom and playing gigs with his old band at their old haunt.

When Sasha lands in San Francisco, she's ready to throw herself into her work. She's back home to open a new restaurant and try to find someone to date during her weird engagement intermission. The last thing she expects is to immediately bump into Marcus and his dad. After the uncomfortable first meeting, they're back to bantering and antagonizing each other.

One night, she decides to check out Marcus' gig. She meets Marcus' sorta girlfriend, a dreadlocked hippie-wannabe who serves the superstar chef spaghetti with cut-up Vienna sausages.

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As Sasha and Marcus start spending more and more time together, they slowly rebuild their friendship. When Sasha and her fiancé officially call it quits, Marcus plucks up the courage to admit his true feelings for her. But just as he's about to tell her he loves her, she tells him that she's met someone. When that someone turns out to be Keanu Reeves—THE Keanu Reeves—Marcus aborts the mission.

The Keanu situation ends up just being a blip, and the two friends eventually start dating for real. Sadly, they discover that they now lead vastly different lives. It's going to take some big changes and a lot of growing up on each side to make things work. Are they up to the task?

The Short, Honest Plot

When Harry Met Sally gets an Asian-American makeover with the wit, charm, and humor of Ali Wong and Randall Park...and Keanu Reeves playing himself in what is possibly the best and most brilliant cameo from an A-list celebrity in years.

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The Actors And Where You Last Saw Them

Ali Wong as Sasha Tran

Best known for her two hugely successful Netflix standup comedy specials, Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife, she has also appeared in Inside Amy Schumer and guest starred in Fresh Off The Boat with ABMM co-star Randall Park.

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Randall Park as Marcus Kim

You most likely know him for his role as Louis Huang in the popular sitcom Fresh Off The Boat, where he co-stars with Crazy Rich Asians' Constance Wu. You may have also seen him in Aquaman, Ant-Man And The Wasp, or Veep.

James Saito as Mr. Kim

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His most popular roles include Master Shredder in 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Dr. Chen in the TV series Eli Stone.

Daniel Dae Kim as Brandon Choi

You've probably seen him in Lost,  the recent remake of Hawaii Five-O, or in his recurring role as Dr. Jackson Han in The Good Doctor.

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Michelle Buteau as Veronica

If she looks awfully familiar, you may have been hitting Netflix hard these past few months. Michelle has appeared in Russian Doll, Isn't It Romantic?, and Someone Great.

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Vivian Bang as Jenny

She was in the Jim Carrey movie Yes Man, starred in the comedy series Sullivan And Son, and played a recurring role in Better Off Ted.

Keanu Reeves as Keanu Reeves

Take your pick. Career highlights include the Bill And Ted movies, The Matrix trilogy, Speed, and the John Wick movies.

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Did You Know?

1. According to People, Ali Wong cast Keanu Reeves as "Marcus' worst nightmare" partly because he's of Asian-American descent. (He's Chinese-Hawaiian on his father's side.) "It was really important to me that all of [Sasha's] love interests were Asian-American," Ali told People. "And we wanted to find a sexy Asian-American man who would be Marcus' worst nightmare if he decided to confess his feelings. In everything I do it's very important to show my attraction and desire towards Asian-American men."

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2. Keanu Reeves filmed his parts while on a short break from shooting Jonh Wick: Chapter 3.

3. According to Vulture, Keanu was always the first choice to play the part of Marcus' romantic foil, but in case he wasn't available, the shortlist also included Tony Leung, Mark Dacascos, M. Night Shyamalan, and…Paul Giamatti. Hey, every list needs a wild card right?

4. That really is Randall Park rapping about tennis balls and punching Keanu Reeves:

5. The director, Nahnatchka Khan, has producing, writing, and directing credits on Fresh Off The Boat.

6. During a guest appearance on Ellen to promote ABMM, Ali joked that she wrote the movie just so that she could kiss Keanu Reeves and Daniel Dae Kim.

What My Friends Think:

"Always Be My Maybe is a charming romantic comedy with just enough raunch to give it a snappy bite. As Marcus Kim and Sasha Tran, Randall Park and Ali Wong are hilariously believable as childhood sweethearts who reconnect after drifting apart and leading wildly different adult lives—he's a musician in the San Francisco scene who's stuck in the comfort zone, while she's a celebrity chef who lives a little too much in her hotshot bubble.

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"I especially loved how the film handled cultural specificity: It's clearly and proudly Asian-American, but it doesn't come off as a cloying tribute or a dry exercise in tokenism. Special mention goes to Keanu Reeves' priceless cameo as an über-douchebag version of himself—it can't get any more extra than that!" —Eileen C. Ang

"If Crazy Rich Asians had a rebellious older cousin who moved to Cali without a trust fund, it would be ABMM. Instead of wowing you with flashy backdrops and designer bags, it charms you with its wit and substance. I was laughing at, crying over, and applauding every ounce of this movie's Asian-American cultural representation. As for Keanu Reeves, his character deserves a separate analysis over beers and kimchi jun." —Kate Alvarez

"Keanu as [Ali's] love interest sold this movie to me. Of course, there was no surprise that she'd end up with the Marcus, or that the title of the movie is the end song. What is its saving grace for me is that it plays a little on gender roles and that maybe it's not so bad for the woman to be the successful one." —Angela Coralejo-Parma

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What I Think:

I grew up watching John Hughes, Nora Ephron, and Nancy Meyers romantic comedies (You've Got Mail is a personal favorite) where the leads looked nothing like me or anyone I knew. I was kind of resigned to the fact that if there were going to be Asian characters (if any) in a Hollywood movie, especially a rom-com, they would not be playing roles that were reserved for the Meg Ryans, Molly Ringwalds, and Sandra Bullocks.

Cut to 2019. Maybe it's too early to say or I'm naive, but it finally feels like inclusivity and representation matters in Hollywood, at least in the projects that are being green-lit. Last year's Crazy Rich Asians was a huge box-office success. Now we have Always Be My Maybe, another romantic comedy with a largely Asian cast. And yes, that includes Keanu because, as the movie, Ali Wong, and Randall Park rightfully claim, he's one of ours.  

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The representation doesn't end with the casting. The food, dynamics, and characterizations are Asian, viewed through the lens of Asians, not white Hollywood. After years and years of tokenism, we finally have a Hollywood movie where people who look like us are front and center. To paraphrase Randall Park, this is one of ours. Maybe I should say Asian-American because there is a difference, but at this point, that's just a quibble.

The humor is a huge part of what makes this movie work for me. The dialogue and the lines have comedic zing, not surprising given that Ali Wong and Randall Park are involved in front of and behind the camera (they're also producers). These guys are funny. You only have to watch Ali Wong's Netflix specials and Fresh Off The Boat to know that. Marcus' rap songs are sublime. And when Keanu Reeves shows up as "Keanu Reeves" or better yet, the myth of Keanu Reeves, he kills it. He's so brilliant, he's badass.

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Now here's my unpopular opinion: It doesn't completely work for me. The movie checks all the boxes a romantic comedy should. Charming leads? Check. Rom-com trope? Check. Romantic foil? Check. A "will they or won't they" situation? Check. Big romantic gesture? Check. Happy ending? Check. Each piece is perfect, but the pieces don't completely fall into place.

Both leads are funny and charming on their own, but the chemistry isn't there, it just kind of falls flat. I never quite believe they belong together or they're in love.

I like that there's no damsel in distress here, that they both have to work on themselves and they meet in the middle. I like that nobody has to give up anything or change, that they both just need to grow as people. But the story doesn't flow as smoothly as I expected it to. You can almost feel the seams where they stitched the scenes together.

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Maybe it's just me. The movie, after all, is funny and it is romantic. It is a major win in Asian-American representation. But I guess I was hoping for more.

I'd Recommend It To:

Fans of romantic comedies—especially When Harry Met Sally, which the stars and producers say influenced Always Be My Maybe—will enjoy this movie. It's fantastic, too, for viewers who are looking for diversity in Hollywood rom-coms. And finally, fans of Keanu Reeves should not pass up seeing this movie. His hilarious performance playing a souped-up version of himself is, in Keanu parlance, "Whoa!"

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