‘Always Be My Maybe’
Directed by Nahnatchka Khan
Starring Ali Wong, Randall Park, James Saito
Streaming on Netflix
Ali Wong and Randall Park do the heavy lifting — and then some — in Netflix’s featherweight rom-com “Always Be My Maybe.” Besides starring roles, they each have writing and producing credits.
The story, also written by Michael Golamco, follows Sasha (Wong) and Marcus (Park), whose Asian-American families were neighbors in San Francisco. BFFs as kids, the two have a bitter falling out after a night of sex when teenagers. Fifteen years later, they reunite.
She’s a bicoastal superstar chef. He’s just “a regular guy” (her term) who lives and works with his widowed father in the heating biz. Can these two bridge the gap between a highflying life and an under-the-radar existence? One guess, two words: “Notting Hill.”
Before that inevitable conclusion, the fitfully funny rom-com pingpongs between dive bars, where slacker Marcus and his ragtag band performs, and airy restaurants and glam red-carpet events, where celebrated Sasha is in her element. Wong and Park bring buckets of appeal. Her edgy side and his mellowness neatly complement the other.
But director Nahnatchka Khan’s pacing lags, and lampooning over-the-top fancy food — crystallized sugar bubbles are blown at diners at the end of one meal — is so late to the table. The appetizer-sized presence of Keanu Reeves, who gets involved with Sasha, is more peculiar than amusing.
Daniel Dae Kim briefly lends support as Sasha’s sometime boyfriend, while Michelle Buteau makes the most of her role as the chef’s pregnant gay sidekick.
In the end, Sasha looks to the future by reconnecting with her past. The filmmakers want that notion to be as rich and satisfying as a slow-simmering old-school dish. But the middling “Maybe” is just like those dessert bubbles — a tickle of sweetness but insubstantial.