Rom-coms are commonly crafted to take viewers on a roller coast of emotions, much like a thriller or crime flick, but without the collateral damage. There’s just enough conflict to get your blood boiling but not tip you off the edge, and just enough cheesiness to give the soul a warm, fuzzy feeling, often with a few tears thrown in for good measure.
Netflix’s latest flick, Always Be My Maybe, has all the classic elements to land it on the best rom-coms list, plus more.
In a time when representation in Hollywood is at the forefront of industry conversation, the film starring Ali Wong and Randall Park continues to drive that discussion home.
In reference to their characters, Sasha and Marcus, here are two young Asian Americans. Their upbringing has been shaped by not just their western education or Full House binge sessions, but by their ethnic parents’ obsession with saving money, or their hard and fast kitchen rule to always cut ingredients with a scissors ‘like Koreans do’.
This is so relatable to many of us children of immigrants, it’s not even funny.
For many Asians not just in the US, but across the world, the merging of two cultures to form a sense of identity is utterly common, yet not represented enough in mainstream film and television.
Movies like Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther have been major highlights for Hollywood’s diversity plight in the last year, but Always Be My Maybe nails the ‘child of a migrant’ experience, without having to explicitly explain from the get go that it will do just that.
Ali Wong’s character Sasha is a hot-shot celebrity chef living in New York, having never forgiven her unashamedly thrifty parents who dedicated themselves to the family business instead of her during her childhood years.
She specialises in ‘Elevated Asian’ cuisine (whatever that is) and is engaged to a heavenly dream boat of a human played by Daniel Dae Kim, which seamlessly challenges the stereotype that Asian men aren’t sexy.
Meanwhile Randall Park’s character Marcus couldn’t be more attached to his family. Not only does he work with his dad at ‘Harry and Son’ (they’re air conditioning specialists), but he’s taken on the self-appointed burden of being his father’s ‘caregiver’ after his mother suddenly passed away at a young age.
As with all rom-coms, you know how it goes. Long lost childhood pals Sasha and Marcus are bound to bump into each other, sparks will fly and then boom, Keanu Reeves will walk right in and mess it all up.
A particular scene that could strike a chord with feminists, and perhaps even more so for many women of colour in particular, is the one where Sasha challenges Marcus’ unwillingness to support her breadwinner status.
“I just don’t want to be some dude on your arm so you don’t have to show up to places alone,” says Marcus.
“Why not? What’s wrong with that?” Sasha hits back. “What’s wrong with you supporting me? No one would question it if it was the other way around.”
She hit the nail on the head with that one. Speaking from my knowledge and upbringing in the South Asian community, a man’s career is typically deemed more important, while a woman’s encouraged to prioritise supporting her male partner and his professional ambitions over her own.
Speaking to Vanity Fair about the development of these characters, Ali recently said they were based off people she knows, and a lot of the time, the women are the breadwinners.
“So many of the guys I grew up with in the Bay Area still live at home, because they are scared to pay rent and potentially lose getting to do what they want to do in life.… For the majority of my friends, the woman is the breadwinner,” she said.
Race and gender politics aside, there’s more to celebrate. With a stellar supporting cast (secretly crushing on Karan Soni now), enough food to screenshot for your Pinterest, and as one Insta-friend pointed out, many a statement necklace selected by the wardrobe department, Always Be My Maybe is the rom-com for you this 2019.