Sifting through Netflix’s endless rolodex of content can be daunting. What should you watch? What are the streaming overlords recommending? Is there a category curated specifically for one’s own tastes? Mind-boggling algorithms aside, there are sometimes those movies that just pop up out of nowhere (fine, not out of nowhere exactly, I just went through the algorithm process). But these are the movies that always seem to simply say, “maybe.” Maybe this is the one. And this time, that “maybe” is literal in Always Be My Maybe, which is now streaming on Netflix and stars Ali Wong and Randall Park.
Sasha and Marcus are childhood best friends. They’re extremely close, living right next door to each other in San Francisco, where Sasha spends countless nights at Marcus’s house for family dinner. As high school seniors, Marcus and Sasha grow much closer. Close enough to get, ahem, busy in the back of Marcus’s Corolla.
The two eventually go their separate ways: Sasha becomes a celebrity chef and Marcus stays home to care for his widowed father and jam with his band. But fate has other plans for their story. Sasha and Marcus find themselves back in each other’s lives before long, and what happens next might have been little more than the standard romantic comedy offering, but Always Be My Maybe raises the bar for itself (no pun intended considering the play on Mariah Carey’s hit song “Always Be My Baby”).
With the talents of Ali Wong and Randall Park under the direction of Nahnatchka Khan (creator of Fresh off the Boat), something delicious is bound to be cooked up in the kitchen and served on a silver platter for audiences. Wong, a celebrated standup comic with popular specials on (you guessed it) Netflix, is as sleek and stylish as she is comedically repose, so it’s no surprise she co-wrote the script. Park, who also has a writing credit for the film, is equally up to the task as someone whose contentment with his life choices seems believable, even admirable, but also frustrating. Their chemistry is infectious, like two best friends who are simply destined to be together. The relationship has all the right ingredients for a touchstone rom-com, and Park and Wong swallow their dynamic whole while enjoying the lingering sensations.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t take its time to develop its romance, in some ways to a fault. The first half lags, as some of the jokes go on for a tad too long while others fail to land. The awkward humor remains uncomfortable long after the punchline, but when the crucial moment comes — and viewers will know this moment when they see it — Always Be My Maybe hits its stride.
The film has standard beats, but they’re complicated by pinches of various spices, giving what would otherwise be a generic film some layers of flavor, including commentary on who is to support whom in a relationship, how that might appear to the rest of the world, and the decisions that may seem like sacrifices but are truly choices for the better.
Always Be My Maybe is an absolute joy. Even if it begins on the staler side, its quirks eventually pop, and the main course is forever delicious. Wong and Park are at their best when playing off of one another, but the supporting cast steps up their game as well, despite limited screen time.
Seeing Wong’s star rise as a fan since her first standup special feels akin to living vicariously through a good friend deserving of success and finally getting their due. Park’s transition from sitcom star to romantic lead, much like his Fresh Off the Boat co-star Constance Wu, is just as satisfying to watch. And that reveal. That glorious reveal at the apex of the film won’t be spoiled here, but suffice to say it’s a secret ingredient meant for audiences to fully relish. So queue up your Netflix, scroll through the seemingly endless choices, and if there is a title you consider a “maybe,” shortcomings and all, you can trust Always Be My Maybe to be your next must see.
Julia is an entertainment writer who has contributed work to Film School Rejects, Polygon, Girls on Tops, Vague Visages, The Playlist, POPSUGAR, Zimbio, and plenty more. Her cat is her favorite film critic.