Always Be My Maybe (***1/2) more comedy than romance

Always Be My Maybe – 2019

Director Nahnatchka Khan
Screenplay Ali Wong, Randall Park, Michael Golamco
Starring Ali Wong, Randall Park, Keaneau Reeves, James Saito, Michelle Buteau, Vivian Bang, Susan Park, Danial Dae Kim, Karan Soni, Charlyne Yi, Lyrics Born, Casey Wilson

On the surface, this film is a farce. It’s got not much in the way of a plot. The acting is just north of Lifetime. There are references to what used to be perceived as the marginalized of society. Those are so prevalent now, it seems to be old hat.

The biggest thing this film has going for it is it’s stars. Ali Wong is Sasha, a lonely girl born to Vietnamese parents. She grew up and became best friends with Marcus, a Korean boy who lives next door in San Francisco.

Their friendship lasts through their late teens when Marcus’ mother is killed in an auto accident. Very soon after they have an awkward experience which is more than either of them can handle. They fall out of touch for many years.

Forward almost 20 years and Marcus is still living with and working for his father. He smokes pot recreationally and performs in a pretty cool, but limited band. The limits are really just because they play where Marcus feels comfortable and no more.

Sasha has the world at her fingertips. She’s a world famous chef. She’s engaged to prince charming of promotion (Dae Kim). She takes on the task of opening up a restaurant in her hometown, and the cracks begin to show in her life. Her fiance calls it off, and she’s on her own.

Her friend Veronica sets Sasha up with the opportunity to meet Marcus again. They meet, and it’s not all that cute, but they push through. The road to romance is interrupted, and, well, at least there’s no race to the airport.

Wong and Park are the best thing this film has going for it. They are awkward, funny, vibrant and beautiful. If the film seems to linger in the doldrums, this is an intentional and worth the wait. Marcus’ band mates in Hello Peril are talented and funny, and its easy to understand why someone might get comfortable in this environment.

Wong as a world famous chef is underplayed, except for the glamour. I would loved to have seen a few more scenes mirroring the connection we see with Sasha and Marcus’ mother at the start of the film.

Romantic comedies too often forget the second part of that description. Wong and Park put the emphasis on the comedy and leave the romance to fend for itself. The film is most successful when one understands this. There are so many talented performers that bring the goods during what could be inconsequential scenes, it helps to make up for the romantic trappings that just fall along the wayside.

Romantic comedies too often forget the second part of that description. Wong and Park put the emphasis on the comedy and leave the romance to fend for itself.

I want to see more of both of these stars. They have an energy and a laid back charm that should lead to a wave of good cinema for years to come.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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