The most obvious and important thing that works is the comedy. Most of the jokes land and don’t feel forced. The comedic delivery from Ali Wong and Randall Park is on point during their entire time on screen.
Ali Wong is so good at looking pissed off. The moments where she bursts out in profanity are a joy to watch. Her delivery of hard hitting lines is blunt and emotionless which just makes it even funnier.
Randall Park is simply one of the most hilarious actors working right now. He has that awkward yet charming look on his face at all times, and he balances the line between being cute and being a loser so well. He was completely persuasive in his role as a gigantic man-child, and he made the character his own. He might have also contributed to the greatest closing credits rap song ever.
When Ali and Randall are on screen together, their opposite personalities cause us to feel all kinds of emotions as we laugh at them tearing each other apart. However, we also feel and root for them when they’re opening up their vulnerabilities to each other.
The supporting characters–Marcus and Sasha’s friends–were also very funny. They never were annoying and even added a nice third-person perspective to Marcus and Sasha’s situation. They weren’t standouts, but they did add enough to not feel “tacked on”.
But of course, any person that has watched this movie knows that there is one particular cameo that leads to probably the best sequence in the entire movie. I am, of course, talking about the utterly outrageous sequence with Keanu Reeves.
While I watched this movie, I mildly forgot that Reeves was in it, so when he appeared as Sasha’s guest, I fell out of my chair. He then puts on a comedic tour de force–acting like a douche bag version of himself. He REALLY plays it up to an eleventh degree to the point where it borders absurdist comedy. His sequence in the film steals the show in the short time he’s in the movie.
The one negative I do have is about Marcus’s fling with Jenny. Some criticisms I hear are that she is annoying and unnecessary. In listening to interviews about the movie, however, Ali Wong mentions how she knows these types of girls in real life, and I do feel like if I knew someone like her in person, I would understand the humor more. I understand the criticism of how she can be annoying, but I’m not going to knock it against Ali Wong for inserting a piece of her real life into her art.
She also has the line in the film that made me laugh the hardest when she says that the worst person she masturbated to was Mao Zedong…FAM when I heard that I had to pause the movie cause I was dying of laughter.
I also liked the two overall story arcs and how they each filled missing pieces in each other’s lives. Sasha was always extremely hardworking, motivated, and talented but had an empty hole in her life where she wished others would give her warmth and love. She tries to fill up this hole with her work and by trying to find the “perfect” man.
Meanwhile, Marcus is the complete opposite. He is deathly afraid of trying new things and at times seems to fear the thought of his own success. Family is super important to him, which is honorable, but deep down he uses it as an excuse to keep himself from moving forward.
Together, Sasha and Marcus both help each other overcome their struggles and accept themselves. This is not done easily, and both cower behind their pride by attacking the other’s way of life. Their initial stubbornness helps their character’s growth feel earned and organic.
The way their story arcs is well crafted and the on-screen chemistry of Randall and Ali makes the film’s romantic payoffs feel worth the investment in their story. I got the feels watching them finally be together in the end. Isn’t that how a rom-com should be?
What doesn’t work?
While I enjoyed their individual story arcs, I felt like more could have been done to flesh out Sasha’s and Marcus’s backgrounds.
For a film that uses family as a major plot point for the characters, I didn’t feel the emotional connection to the family members as much as I wish I could have. Marcus’s dad was adorable and sweet but seemed to only be there to give advice and move the plot forward. I get that he would have moved on by then, but I did feel his character was a bit one-dimensional.
The resolution of Sasha’s parents also felt kind of flat. After decades of neglecting their child they just suddenly “have the time now?” After leaving such an emotional gap on their child, I just felt like the way Sasha easily forgave them seemed kind of unrealistic. I think adding more on Sasha’s parents and their relationship would have made Sasha a more well-rounded and empathetic character.
I also wish we could have seen more of Sasha and Marcus growing up. We spend just a few minutes with them as kids and teenagers, and I think showing more scenes of how Sasha was affected by her missing family and how Marcus reacts to his mom’s death would show more moments of realism, such as trauma to Marcus or his dad coping to the loss.
That is especially important when the crux of the film revolves around a restaurant built by Sasha in honor of Marcus’s mother. I get the gesture and how it ties everything together, but since I didn’t see the Mom for more than a few minutes, the fact that she was the resolution to the two characters’ story arc seems forced and disjointed–almost emotionally flat…I really didn’t care about the resolution as much as I should have.
There’s also the issue of pacing in the film which feels rather off. To me, the events in the story happen either too slow or too fast. When the main characters realize they like each other, it’s way later on in the film. The build-up is nice but then, after a quick dating montage, they suddenly start fighting and quickly break up. They quickly also reverse this decision. I just wish this film let those moments of them dating and being broken apart breathe a little bit. As for the Keanu Reeves scene–though it’s the best part of the movie–it felt a bit out of place. I love it, it was great, but it did definitely did not feel like it belonged.
Did it do it for the culture?
I actually really like how Always Be My Maybe went about introducing elements of Asian culture in the movie. I loved how important food was to Sasha and how it was an escape. I love how she used her motivation and pain to become successful in something she is truly passionate about.
As much as I wasn’t a fan of how the parents were under utilized, I also think this movie did a great job of showing how Asian and American culture can fuse together. We see this in several ways–the soundtrack is made up of almost entirely American songs because that is what Sasha and Marcus grew up with. I also love how Marcus’s Dad isn’t this overbearing Asian parent we see in a lot of films. Despite the movie depicting the mixing of Asian and American culture, there is still the message of being respectful to your roots: case in point, Sasha creating a restaurant with the traditional recipes of Marcus’s Mom.
The film introduces all of these elements without overtly being a movie about Asian culture. I do not think the main focus of the film revolves around Asian culture, but I like this a lot because if Asian representation is going to continue in the entertainment industry, then we need movies that are just movies with Asians and not just Asian movies. Always Be My Maybe does that quite well.
Does this film accomplish what it wanted to do?
ABSOLUTELY, IT DID. This movie at its core was trying to be funny and heartfelt and is definitely one of the funniest rom-coms I’ve seen recently. All the characters are fun, with Ali and Randall doing the majority of the entertaining with their expert comedic timing and natural chemistry.
All in all, the great comedy and chemistry more than made up for the flaws. If you’re looking for plenty of laughs then Always Be My Maybe is a film you should definitely check out.
TLDR: IS IT WORTH WATCHING?
Absolutely! Despite any criticisms I may have of the film it is hilarious and has some moments that had me dying of laughter. The chemistry between Ali Wong and Randall Park are great, and their moments together definitely packed enough emotional moments to hit to appeal to rom-com fans.
At roughly 2 hours long, Always Be My Maybe (dir. Nahnatchaka Khan) is one of the funniest romcoms in recent history, and while it’s not perfect, it’s a good-great time for any viewer.
Represent Asian is a free-form podcast/column where film enthusiast Keith Gaddi gives his honest, unbiased, free-form opinion about recent Asian/Anglo-Asian films.