The Netflix film Always Be My Maybe unfurls like a pleasant enough romantic comedy of the Hallmark Channel variety – until Keanu Reeves (John Wick, Speed) shows up. He’s like a breath of fresh air injected into the cinematic wind of what might otherwise be dismissed as an utterly predictable and formulaic film. I can’t go into detail about Reeves’ cameo, but the trailer (see below) offers up a quick tease. Always Be My Maybe tells the story of two childhood sweethearts, Sasha Tran (actress/comedian Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (Randall Park, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Fresh Off the Boat) who reconnect after 15 years on the outs. She’s grown into an ambitious celebrity chef, always on the move; he’s grown into… well… the kind of guy who still lives at home, smokes weed, works for his dad, and plays in a local band that could be more successful if he just took a chance. See where this is going?
When Sasha temporarily moves from Los Angeles to her hometown of San Francisco to open a new restaurant, her pregnant gay best friend/assistant Veronica (Michelle Buteau) sets up an awkward ‘re-meet cute’ with Marcus. Pay no mind that Sasha is sort of engaged to a wealthy, self-centered restaurateur and Marcus is in a steady relationship with a flighty groupie. There’s obviously still an attraction, rooted in a friendship that got sideswiped by adolescent hormones. See where this is going?
Co-stars Wong and Park (along with Michael Golamco, Grimm, Please Stand By) penned the script and chose television writer/producer Nahnatchka Khan (Fresh Off the Boat) to direct. That could explain why Always Be My Maybe often resembles a cute and quippy sitcom with mid-level television stars, rather than a feature film… until Keanu enters the picture. Then it’s a MOVIE. Keanu Reeves is seriously funny to watch in all his deadpan glory. Keanu stuff aside, the script leans too heavily on clichés and stereotypes to mine for laughs when it really doesn’t (or shouldn’t) need to.
No doubt Always Be My Maybe will evoke comparisons to Crazy Rich Asians, which proved that Asian Americans can headline a very successful Hollywood RomCom. Always Be My Maybe isn’t half-bad, but it’s no Crazy Rich Asians. If it does manage to endear itself to a wide audience, the person ultimately responsible for that will be none other than… yes, Keanu Reeves. You’ll just have to watch to understand why.
[Note: In case you’re wondering, the title is indeed based on Mariah Carey’s 1995 hit “Always Be My Baby” and the singer gave it her blessing. Apologies for planting the earworm, but at least you’re in the know.]