Ali Wong made a big splash a couple of years ago with her Netflix standup special, “Baby Cobra,” which she recorded while eight months pregnant. Last year, she was back with another hour-long solo show, “Hard Knock Wife,” performed while pregnant again with her second child.
Now Wong returns with a new Netflix project, but this one’s not a comedy concert. It’s a rom-com called “Always Be My Maybe,” which she co-stars in and co-wrote with longtime friend Randall Park (from ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat,” where she’s been a writer).
The movie is about Sasha and Marcus, two best friends who grew up together as next-door neighbors but went down different paths after high school graduation. She moved to Los Angeles and became a famous celebrity chef while he stayed in San Francisco’s Chinatown to work with his father in the family HVAC business. More than a decade later, their paths cross again just as she’s dumped her live-in boyfriend (Daniel Dae Kim) and moved back to their hometown to open up a second restaurant.
Wong and Park admit “When Harry Met Sally” was the inspiration for their story and, like Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, they have an innate chemistry that you know is going to bring them together in the end. It is a pleasure to see a rom-com with Asian characters who are a little more relatable than those in “Crazy Rich Asians,” which I was lukewarm about last year.
I was also happy to see Sasha as a strong, successful businesswoman, not just a go-along-with-the-guy kind of female character we’ve seen too many times before (an observation I happily also made a couple of weeks ago about Charlize Theron’s character in “Long Shot”).
“Always Be My Maybe” also has great supporting work from Vivian Bang as Park’s wacky girlfriend, James Saito as his father, and Keanu Reeves (yes!) as Wong’s boyfriend, playing himself and having some fun with his public image. In a very funny sequence, the two couples go on a double date to one of those obnoxiously upscale nouveau-cuisine restaurants where you don’t get enough food no matter how many courses you order, where Reeves makes this wild request to a waiter: “Let me ask, do you have any dishes that play with time? With the concept of time?”
My wife and I both enjoyed “Always Be My Maybe,” and agree that Wong is now set for movie stardom. Perhaps she can take one of the roles Constance Wu can’t do because of the renewal of “Fresh Off The Boat.” Plus, rookie movie director Nahnatchka Khan keeps the pace moving and does a good job balancing the comedy and dramatic elements. This will likely lead to more feature opportunities for her, too.
I give “Always Be My Maybe” — which is streaming now on Netflix — an 8 out of 10.