Always Be My Maybe (2019 film)
|Always Be My Maybe|
Official promotional poster
|Directed by||Nahnatchka Khan|
|Edited by||Lee Haxall|
Always Be My Maybe is a 2019 American romantic comedy film, written by Ali Wong, Randall Park and Michael Golamco and directed by Nahnatchka Khan. It stars Wong and Park as childhood friends Marcus and Sasha, who have not been in touch since a brief teenage fling ended badly. When Sasha returns to San Francisco to open a restaurant and romantic chemistry from their teenager years remains, Marcus's fears and Sasha's fame and demanding career challenge their potential new relationship.
Sasha Tran (Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (Randall Park) are childhood friends who grow up next door to each other in San Francisco. As Sasha's Vietnamese-immigrant/refugee parents regularly leave her home alone while they tend to their store, Marcus's parents often have her over for dinner, and Marcus's Korean American mother Judy (Susan Park) teaches her to cook. Eventually Sasha and Marcus form a close friendship that carries on into their teenage years, but this is broken after his mother dies in an accident. Grieving, the two have sex but a wedge is driven between the two when they argue shortly afterwards and they fall out of touch.
Sixteen years later, Sasha is a celebrity chef and engaged to Brandon Choi (Daniel Dae Kim), a successful restaurateur. Marcus is still in San Francisco living with his widowed father and performs in a talented but largely unsuccessful band that only plays in his neighborhood. He also has a girlfriend Jenny, an Asian American woman with dreadlocks. Sasha breaks up with Brandon after he delays their wedding yet again. Briefly moving back to the Bay Area to oversee the opening of a new restaurant, she has a chance encounter with Marcus when he and his father are hired to install air conditioning at her temporary home. After initial friction, they reconnect and become friends again, and Marcus admits to his father he still has feelings for Sasha. But before he can tell her, Sasha announces she has met someone new, and they wind up on a disastrous double date with Marcus' girlfriend and Sasha's new love interest: movie star Keanu Reeves. The long evening ultimately dissolves into chaos as Sasha confesses her longtime childhood crush on Marcus, a brawl breaks out between Marcus and Keanu, and Jenny ends up staying with Keanu for the night. Sasha and Marcus then begin seeing each other, with Marcus reacquainting Sasha with the home and San Francisco Asian community she had distanced herself from, still harboring resentment of her absentee parents. He takes her to an old favorite Cantonese restaurant from their childhood, which Sasha remembers as terrible but discovers is delicious, marred only by her painful memories. As she reconnects to the city and the two fall in love, Marcus is taken aback to learn that, as planned, Sasha still intends to move on to New York for her next project, once the San Francisco restaurant has launched. When Sasha asks Marcus to join her, he refuses and she leaves San Francisco alone.
Taken to task by both his father and his bandmates, Marcus realizes that his mother's death has made him scared to move on in life. He then moves out of his childhood home and takes steps to make his band more successful. He calls her regularly with updates but, not receiving any reply, does not pursue her further until he discovers Sasha is secretly supporting his musical ambitions. This emboldens Marcus to surprise Sasha on the red carpet at an awards show in Manhattan, asking for her to take him back and pledging to be wherever she is. She accepts. Reunited, Sasha takes Marcus to the New York restaurant she has been developing: it is named for and features the recipes of his late mother, Judy.
- Ali Wong as Sasha Tran
- Randall Park as Marcus Kim
- Emerson Min as 12-year-old Marcus
- Jackson Geach as 15-year-old Marcus
- James Saito as Harry Kim
- Michelle Buteau as Veronica
- Anaiyah Bernier as 15-year-old Veronica
- Vivian Bang as Jenny
- Keanu Reeves as himself
- Susan Park as Judy Kim
- Daniel Dae Kim as Brandon Choi
- Karan Soni as Tony
- Charlyne Yi as Ginger
- Lyrics Born as Quasar
- Casey Wilson as Chloe
- Raymond Ma as Quoc Tran
- Peggy Lu as Sandy Tran
Development and production
Ali Wong and Randall Park met in the late 1990s during a "fried-rice cooking competition hosted by a mutual friend from the LCC Theatre Company, an Asian American performance group Park co-founded while attending UCLA." Park and Wong stayed in touch and remained close friends and supportive of each other's projects.
In 2016, Wong mentioned in a New Yorker interview that she and Park had been working for years to develop "our version of When Harry Met Sally". Vulture's Jackson McHenry wrote a column in enthusiastic support of the project with the headline, "Dear Hollywood, Please Make Ali Wong and Randall Park's Dream Rom-Com." The project picked up steam and in August 2017, Netflix announced it had greenlit an untitled film written by Wong, Park and Michael Golamco, with the former set to costar in the film. In March 2018, Nahnatchka Khan was announced as attached in her directorial debut, with principal photography to begin in Vancouver and San Francisco in May 2018. In May 2018, Keanu Reeves, Daniel Dae Kim, Michelle Buteau, Vivian Bang, Karan Soni, Charlyne Yi, James Saito, Lyrics Born, and Susan Park joined the cast of the film, titled Always Be My Maybe.
Reeves's casting was initially thought to be a pipe dream. "He's the dream guy," said Khan. "Like, we don't know what his schedule is, but this would be amazing." "We all thought it was going to be impossible to get him," said Park. "What was the likelihood of him being available, and then also him being willing to play himself? So let's try to think of other people that we could get." Alternatives to Reeves included Tony Leung, Mark Dacascos, M. Night Shyamalan and Paul Giamatti. Reeves, a big fan of Wong's stand-up, was on-board from the start and found a way to shoot his scene around his schedule. "He was like, 'I would be honored to be part of this love story,'" Khan said.
Reeves went over the script with Wong and Khan at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles. "He pitched a couple of things that made it in. Like wearing glasses that had no lens," Wong noted. "And the part in the game night scene where he lists all of these Chinese dignitaries, that was all his idea. And when he says, 'I don't have a problem, Sasha. What's your problem?' and starts air-fighting. It's hard to describe just how shockingly funny he is."
Principal photography began on May 30, 2018, in Vancouver. Additional filming took place in San Francisco from July 15 to 26, 2018. Reeves, who was in the middle of filming John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, flew into the city specifically to shoot his two scenes before returning to New York.
Park's rap persona in the film is based on his earlier music career as a member of the 1990s Bay Area hip-hop group called Ill Again. The fictional band Hello Peril is a play on the term "yellow peril"—the "alleged threat to Western nations by East Asians". Rapper Lyrics Born appears as a band member. Park co-wrote several rap songs for the movie with hip-hop producer Dan the Automator. The song "I Punched Keanu Reeves" which plays in the end credits, was written by Park as "a tribute to Keanu, because he's such a big part of all our lives and because he actually agreed to be in our movie." Park had to get Reeves's permission for the song. "I sent him an email with some of the lyrics and asked if it would be OK, and he was totally down," Park said. "He even gave some suggestions."
In July 2019, Netflix reported that the film was viewed by 32 million households in its first four weeks of release.
The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 91% based on 77 reviews, with an average rating of 7.06/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Carried by the infectious charms of Ali Wong and Randall Park, Always Be My Maybe takes familiar rom-com beats and cleverly layers in smart social commentary to find its own sweet groove." Metacritic gave the film a weighted average score of 64 out of 100, based on 20 critics , indicating "generally favorable reviews".
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