“Always Be My Maybe” has fun moments while skewering esoteric gourmet starvation offerings and our favorite Asian American hunks but this rom-com of awkward Asian angst suffers from some tempo and timing decisions under Nahnatchka Khan’s direction.
In San Francisco 1996, Sasha Tran (Miya Cech) is a latchkey kid who luckily lives next door to the Kim family. Her bestie, Marcus Kim (Emerson Min), invites her over for family dinners and other activities while her own parents (Raymond Ma and Peggy Lu) are busy working a mom-and-pop store. Marcus’ mother, Judy (Susan Park), teaches Sasha how to cook kimchi-jjigae–real comfort food. A montage shows Sasha and Marcus growing up together (into Randall Park and Ali Wong) until an unseen accident in 2003 kills Judy.
Marcus and Sasha, in mourning, cross the boundary between friends and lovers and the awkwardness begins post-coitus in the back seat of a smelly Toyota and ends at a Burger King with a harsh exchange.
Sasha grows up to become a famous Los Angeles chef who has unwisely mixed business with pleasure relationship by merging in a mattress mambo with her manager, Brandon Choi (Daniel Day Kim)–“a sexy, handsome chiseled statue of a Korean Eric from ‘The Little Mermaid.'” While Sasha is planning their wedding, Brandon asks if they can postpone the wedding so that he can attend to business in India even though Sasha expected him to go with her to San Francisco for a restaurant opening of “transdenominational” elevated Asian food.
His pitch? Sasha would be alone in San Francisco. Brandon would be alone in India. “We’d be apart together before entering into a lifelong commitment.” Then Brandon can be the best husband he can be and they will see other people–like a “six-month bachelorette.” Sasha’s very pregnant and in a committed relationship best friend, Veronica (Michelle Buteau), knows that Sasha has a problem hooking up with nice guys and arranges for Marcus to bump into Sasha.
Marcus still lives with his father, but also plays in a “block band” that could possibly go further but Marcus has settled into a comfort zone. He doesn’t want to book the band in new and bigger venues. He owns the same Corolla even though “the lock stopped working in 2007.” Marcus’ complacency annoys Sasha who tells him that he looks like a “homeless astronaut” in his workplace coverall onesies.
Marcus has a girlfriend, Jenny (Vivian Bang), whose spacey enthusiasm is admirable but whose declaration that she sees Marcus and her as spiritually married makes Marcus uncomfortable.
It’s not spoiler to tell you that Marcus will lose Jenny and he and Sasha will end up together. You also know from the trailer, that Marcus has to compete not only with the shadow of her hunky ex-fiancé but with the “insane freaky-ass sex” and global fame of John Wick’s Keanu Reeves, playing an obtuse (“The only stars that matter are the ones you look at when you dream.” ) and badass macho self-involved version of himself (“It’s like Truth or Dare but it’s a little more apocalyptic.”).
During a double date, Reeves tells Marcus as a compliment, “The man who embraces his mediocre nothingness shines greater than any,” but Marcus tells Sasha, “He’s a douche.” Jenny is starstruck. John Wick gets a plug as does Netflix as this version of Reeves goes Wickian during a show of male dominance . Reeves obviously has a good humor about himself, but do men really want to hit that face?
Wong and Park do have a chummy chemistry, making the best friends story believable. Some moments do touch an emotional place, but the pacing is often wrong. The awkwardness that is the root of most of the humor doesn’t find a suitable rhythm. Writers Wong, Park and Michael Golamco could have edited to improve the flow.
The awkward funny is often just awkward (and not necessarily fun). “Always Be my Maybe” is a Netflix maybe and not a must-see.