I honestly have to wonder if “Always Be My Maybe” has gotten such positive reviews because Keanu Reeves is in it.
The actor who had mega success back in the ’90s, give or take a few years, has skyrocketed to notoriety. The world is literally obsessed with him. He’s everywhere, from “Toy Story 4” to Netflix original movies, where he plays himself.
After everyone and their mother seemed to be talking about how good “Always Be My Maybe” was, I decided to give it a try. I wish I could get those two hours back. (Technically, the film is only 104 minutes long, but it seemed much, much longer.)
The film is written by and stars Ali Wong and Randall Park as childhood best friends, Sasha and Marcus, who don’t speak for 16 years after a bad decision in a car’s back seat leads to their friendship ending. The film begins with cute bits of their childhood and teenage years to show an attempt to cement their bond with each other before flashing forward to the present.
Sasha is a successful chef and restaurateur while Marcus still lives with his dad. She opens restaurants around the country, while he smokes weed and works at his dad’s HVAC company. She’s engaged to her manager, Brandon (Daniel Dae Kim), while he’s dating Jenny (Vivian Bang), who thinks Vienna sausages are fine dining and has mastered the art of Asian dreadlocks.
If you’ve ever seen a Hallmark movie, you know what comes next.
Sasha ends up moving to her hometown of San Francisco to open a new restaurant.
She breaks up with Brandon, runs into Marcus and weirdness ensues. He’s dating Jenny, and Sasha meets and hooks up with Keanu, who plays himself. Sasha and Marcus rekindle their friendship, but the differences in who they’ve become are ever-present.
Marcus never grew up. He believes himself to be his dad’s caregiver, plays in a band and drives his old Toyota Corolla, despite the fact it’s falling apart. Sasha moved on with her life. She didn’t have a great relationship with her workaholic parents and has done her best to put the past behind her.
Of course, they start rekindling old flames. Although, I don’t think there were any old flames so much as teenage hormones. Apparently, young Sasha loved young Marcus, but he didn’t reciprocate the feeling. I’m not sure. (I was bored at this point and didn’t really care.)
Here’s the problem. I love that this film exists. It’s a film that celebrates representation and diversity. I compared the film to a Hallmark movie earlier, but this isn’t something you’ll see on Hallmark. From “Black Panther” to “Jane the Virgin” to “The Big Sick” to “Crazy Rich Asians,” people of color are finally finding their place as leads on the big and small screens.
So yes, I’m glad this film was made, even if I hated it.
It’s a tired formula that will continue to be used over and over again. Childhood sweethearts lose touch and find each other years later to rekindle the flame. Romantic comedies have a formula, and “Always Be My Maybe” tries to fit it.
Unfortunately, the two leads, Sasha and Marcus, are horrible for each other and have a toxic relationship. In a moment of grief and stupidity, they have sex in the back of a car as teenagers. Neither one can handle it, and they don’t talk for nearly two decades.
As adults, they’re both in completely different places, and they each want the other to change. She wants him to grow up and learn how to be an adult. He can’t accept her fancy cars, uppity food or the success she’s built for herself. They want to be together, but only if the other will change to accommodate the other.
How in the world is that healthy or a film plot that should make us feel warm and fuzzy?
Both Sasha and Marcus are insufferable jackasses. Likable characters are found in Marcus’ dad, Harry (James Saito) and Veronica (Michelle Buteau). (Fun fact: Saito played the Shredder in 1990’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” That made me happy to learn this. Anyway, he’s far more likable here.) Sasha and Michael are self-centered, egotistical characters that can’t see past their own noses enough to truly care about other people.
On my Goodreads app, I have a shelf called “Abandoned.” Basically, it’s where I “shelve” books that I don’t finish, whether it’s a matter of my losing interest or the fact the book was simply horribly bad. I kind of wish I had a shelf like that for movies like “Always Be My Maybe.”
At times, the gags seem reminiscent of a Disney Channel show; and, again let me say, the two lead characters are basically horrible people you don’t want to root for. The story is formulaic and overdone. Have those observations set in yet?
Bottom line: “Always Be My Maybe” isn’t the rom-com you’re looking for. If you’re jonesing for a Netflix original, type in “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.” You won’t regret it.