“Always Be My ‘Meh’-Be.”
Always Be My Maybe (2019) was released at the end of May so admittedly, I’m a little late to the party. Thankfully it was a Netflix release so I was able to keep it in my back pocket while I reviewed more time-sensitive releases like Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) and Rocketman (2019). By the way, you can check out my reviews for those movies here and here. I had seen nothing but positive press for Always Be My Maybe which gave me hope that it would break the curse of average Netflix original movies I’ve reviewed lately. While Ali Wong delivers a star-turning performance, I’m sad to report that not everything in Always Be My Maybe is as standout as its talented leading lady.
Taking place in San Francisco, Always Be My Maybe follows Sasha and Marcus, two childhood friends who have grown more and more distant since parting ways after high school. Now a celebrity chef, Sasha returns home to open a new restaurant and unexpectedly crosses paths with Marcus. As the two butt heads over how they’ve changed, they begin to wonder if maybe they’ve been each other’s “one that got away” all this time.
It’s not exactly Always Be My Maybe’s fault that I found it so disappointing. With recent releases like Love, Simon (2018), Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and Set It Up (2018) receiving critical acclaim, the bar for rom-coms has never been higher. When I found out that the hilarious Ali Wong and the always entertaining Randall Park were not only the movie’s stars but its screenwriters and producers as well, I thought, “yay! Another win for rom-coms!” Well, turns out, it’s less of a win and more of a participation medal. Always Be My Maybe is not a flat-out terrible movie, I just found it to be largely underwhelming. I desperately wanted to love it but as I passed the 20 minute mark, I found myself thinking, “this is really nothing special so far.” Which is so upsetting considering the talent involved! Wong and Park have an undeniable and swoon-worthy chemistry, but in scenes both together and apart, it feels as though the movie underutilizes them. They’re both so charming and funny and yet come off as really low energy. That lack of energy hinders Always Be My Maybe from reaching the romantic and comedic heights I know it’s more than capable of.
I took most issue with the character of Marcus. I found that the character wasn’t relatable, understandable, or even likable. For a character to be worth rooting for, I think that they should check off at least one of those criteria. There were fleeting moments where I could see Park’s natural charisma and comedic talent trying to shine through, but they kept getting buried underneath the movie’s efforts to make Marcus a complicated character. Throughout the movie Marcus carries an annoyingly unwarranted chip on his shoulder and towards the end of the movie I was actively rooting for Sasha not to end up with him. He doesn’t deserve her! Sidenote, I want Park and John Cho to play brothers in a comedy. Wouldn’t that kind of be everything?
Wong is a very talented comedian and she has no problem leading this movie. Hot take, I would have been okay if the movie had just starred her. The big problem I had though was that it literally wasn’t until the 45 minute mark that I began to laugh at the multitude of jokes the movie gave her. That’s when I felt like she was really able to let loose and inject the movie with her own brand of comedy. Wong gets plenty of jokes and she delivers them all with great tone and delivery, but none are real zingers or particularly laugh out loud funny. Which may be the problem with Always Be My Maybe as a whole: It’s so subdued. Not subdued enough to be a dry, witty comedy, and not brash enough to be a raucous, gut-busting one, Always Be My Maybe plays it safe. There were times where it kind of felt like the best episode of a mediocre sitcom.
Always Be My Maybe sticks to the rom-com formula and thankfully contains many of the tropes of the genres that fans adore. One of my personal favourite tropes is the “fun best friend,” and Michelle Buteau’s Veronica is great. Responsible for all of my laughs before the game changing 45 minute mark, I couldn’t get enough of her character. I wanted so much more! Unfortunately she disappears for like half the movie and doesn’t reappear until maybe the last half hour. Which, coincidentally, is about the time any actually romance begins to blossom between Sasha and Marcus. I feel like this movie didn’t know how to allocate its time properly.
Speaking of memorable characters, holy shit, Keanu Reeves. Reeves has what basically amounts to an extended cameo and manages to steal the entire movie from the lead characters. Wonderfully bizarre, hilariously out of touch and easily the best part of the movie, I could watch this eccentric characterization of Reeves all day. I never would have thought that having him simply listen to headphones, eat dinner and drink wine would get the biggest laughs but damn, here we are. Honestly, it made me laugh harder than anything else the main cast did.
I’m really bummed that I didn’t like Always Be My Maybe more than I did. Often I felt like the movie was trying to get me to feel ALL the emotions and succeeded in making me feel none of them. Everything from the writing to the performances felt like it was halfway there, in need of a push to take it over the top .Sasha and Marcus spend the whole movie trying to decide if they’re worth each other’s time and I spent the whole movie wondering if they were worth mine.
Were you more impressed by Always By My Maybe than I was?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!