The following is a short review of Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe — Directed by Nahnatchka Khan.
Netflix has a pretty solid reputation when it comes to producing these hip romantic comedies. One of those films, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, received a lot of praise from both critics and audiences last year. Now, in 2019, Netflix has a new romantic comedy with a culturally diverse and thus modern cast. Always Be My Maybe is Fresh Off the Boat-creator Nahnatchka Khan’s feature film directorial debut.
Khan’s debut is a romantic comedy about two former best friends reuniting. Sasha (played by Ali Wong) and Marcus (played by Randall Park) were once childhood best friends, but their friendship eventually ended when a one-night fling went poorly. Now, they are living completely different lives. Sasha is a celebrity chef engaged to Brandon (played by Daniel Dae Kim), a successful restaurateur. Meanwhile, Marcus is stuck in a rut. This all changes when Sasha returns to their home city of San Francisco as Brandon has decided that they should ‘see other people.’ Sasha and Marcus eventually reconnect and soon sparks fly.
Nahnatchka Khan’s Always Be My Maybe is proof that a cameo can make a movie work and potentially salvage a somewhat stale production through improvisation and spontaneity. To me, stunt casting saved this film, which had, up until a point, been a fairly underdeveloped and uninteresting romantic comedy. The film starts with a cutesy and rushed backstory. In this opening section, we see younger actors — Miya Cech, Ashley Liao, Emerson Min, and Jackson Geach — play Sasha and Marcus, but, even though I do feel that this section feels rushed and impatient, it worked much better than the first scenes between Ali Wong and Randall Park whose chemistry is, at best, hit-or-miss throughout the film. The film, honestly, almost lost me completely here in the scenes that, I thought, showcased unconvincing chemistry.
“The only stars that matter are the ones you look at when you dream.”
And then Keanu Reeves walked into frame and made it much more than merely an underwhelming romantic comedy with an Asian-American couple at its core. Keanu Reeves really livens up the film. It was a fairly stale romantic comedy until his appearance, but then he turned the knob up to eleven, so to speak, and added charisma and intensity. Keanu Reeves’ scenes are hysterical. The sequence wherein he plays a game that he refers to as ‘icebreakers’ is side-splitting.
“I’m very familiar with Chinese dignitaries, Marcus.”
Had you asked me before I watched this film, I would say that stunt casting cannot possibly save a derailed film completely. And yet, I think this film’s cameo actually achieved exactly that. I hadn’t laughed at all until the cameo appearance was unveiled. Then, however, I started to vibe with the film. The actor who appears has star-appeal and charisma and he even makes the leads of the film work better. He’s tremendous as he actually enhances the other actors’ performances. He gave the film a shot of energy that made me invested in the characters that had, up until that point, been fairly uninteresting to me.
I do think many of the jokes in Khan’s film are unfunny, I think the film is built on faulty chemistry, and I think the third act relies almost entirely on contrived drama. Ultimately, however, I am of the opinion that the shot of energy that the stunt casting provides the film with is enough for me to, albeit hesitantly, recommend Nahnatchka Khan’s Always Be My Maybe, even though I have some issues with the film. It may be cutesy, formulaic, and not as funny as it maybe should be, but the ending is moving and the film includes a hysterical performance from the actor who appears out of nowhere in an unforgettable cameo appearance.
6 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.