Always Be My Maybe movie review: Ali Wong, Randall Park bring morning dew freshness to Netflix rom-com

Mihir Fadnavis

Jun 04, 2019 11:43:31 IST

3/5

Language: English

Ah, the evergreen romantic comedy genre, that invites you to warm up some coffee and snuggle in a blanket on a cozy Saturday night with your significant other. You let the characters on screen win you over by making you and your partner identify with them in ludicrously contorted ways. Or if you are single, the genre that makes you hate watch its content with a tub of ice cream and still make you yearn for the milquetoast existential conflicts that the characters are sorting out with a series of convenient coincidences. In short, there really is nothing like a well made rom-com to lubricate your rusty cockles. The new Netflix Original, Always Be My Maybe, perfectly fits the bill.

Always Be My Maybe movie review: Ali Wong, Randall Park bring morning dew freshness to Netflix rom-com

Ali Wong and Randall Park in a still from Always Be My Maybe. Netflix

We must thank Crazy Rich Asians for opening the floodgates to mainstream American cinema with Asian characters, because Ali Wong and Randall Park are just perfect as the leads in this film. The less you know about the story the better — Wong and Park play Sasha and Marcus respectively, who reconnect after years and rekindle some romance. The story beats preceding and succeeding that event are cringe-inducingly predictable, but because Wong and Park are so refreshing as an on screen duo, and it is directed with such good craft by TV veteran Nahnatchka Khan, it is easy to waft away with the laid-back energy of the film. The whole package really is a testament to how an average story could graduate to watchable entertainment, based purely on the charm and chemistry of its performers.

What is most interesting about this film is not the way it is performed or shot, but the pins that hold the cinematic cloth together — this is precision filmmaking from Netflix, tailor-made with its algorithm, to cater to specific demographics by inserting perfectly calibrated plot points to trigger emotional reactions. When you take the film apart, you will be able to spot all the elements that glue the plot together. They are all topical strands that are individually popular on the streaming platform. For example, because cooking shows are popular, one of the protagonists is a chef, and conveniently, this is a film put together by the folks who made and star in the TV show Fresh of the Boat, centered around the restaurant business. It is a formula that just works and Always Be My Maybe milks it real good. As a result, it delivers on its sweet and sappy promise. It makes for the most ‘undemanding’ film in recent times. That is somehow different enough despite its torrent of familiarity.

To give it a further boost, the film contains a cameo from a major Hollywood star which is so hilarious and memorable it ranks right up there with Bill Murray in Zombieland. The star in question plays a fictionalised, over-the-top version of himself. You will be left in splits by the time he exits the movie.

Both Wong and Park have star-making turns here. The former is already a more recognisable name the latter, who generally has small parts in big movies. But he might finally get the eyeballs that he deserves as a legit lead. Park even gets the opportunity to sing an ‘Everything Is Awesome’-style uproariously satirical song that closes the film.

Even though originality is sparse in this movie, it is the emotions it renders that are real and plenty. Of course, there are things in the plot and character behaviour that are too cute to exist in the real world, but that is what the genre brings — a brief moment of distraction and foolish hope that the implausible is offset by the enjoyable. There is no doubt that this is going to be a huge success for the streaming platform. It is going to be interesting to see what Netflix does next. If it means more films with a focus on communities not explored in mainstream cinema, it bodes well for both creators and consumers.

Rating: ***

Updated Date: Jun 04, 2019 11:43:31 IST