Randall Park and Ali Wong in 'Always Be My Maybe' (Ed Araquel / Netflix)
Orange County School of the Arts

‘Always Be My Maybe’ is the Asian rom-com we’ve been waiting for

As Asian Pacific American Heritage Month just passed, I find myself reflecting on my cultural pride. There is a saying in Asian cultures: “long noodles, long life.”

I can hear it every so often through the slurps of smokey soup or through hollow chopsticks clacking against an empty bowl. These are the sounds of pride, of unity, of love for each other and our shared experience. As a young female Asian American screenwriter, I am always searching for representation on the small and big screen.

“Always Be My Maybe,” a new movie on Netflix, fits that role perfectly. A poke bowl mixture of “Crazy Rich Asians” and urban Chinatown hip hop, the movie “Always Be My Maybe” showcases childhood sweethearts who have a falling out but reconnect as adults when their paths collide in San Francisco.

They catch a glimpse of each other’s worlds and how different they have become since they were last together.  “Always Be My Maybe” features stand up comedian turned actress Ali Wong as a strong female Asian lead named Sasha Tran who thrives in a nontraditional career as a celebrity chef.

She shares the screen with “Fresh Off the Boat” star Randall Park, playing Marcus Kim, a lovable and humorous love interest. Both characters, although completely different, break the Asian stereotype of the “nerdy kid” by bringing relatability and humanity to the screen that would inspire young Asians to achieve their dreams.

As a young Asian American teen, I see myself in nearly every character, especially Sasha. There is that independence that was grown and fostered from an early age that we all hope to have in ourselves. She took her childhood passion and created it into a lifestyle customized just for her, which is something I aspire to do in my life.

As an strong, independent Asian American, she inspires not only me but numerous other young Asian Americans by breaking racial stereotypes and succeeding in a career that doesn’t require you to go to engineering or medical school.

I also find myself immersed in the food and culture. The restaurant booths and steamy dumplings sitting in metal cylinders in the hole-in-the-wall seafood place bring me back to Saturday mornings with my grandparents. High-end Asian fusion cuisine is a throwback to Friday night wedding receptions for people I don’t know.

The soundtrack, featuring funny songs such as “I Punched Keanu Reeves,” rapped and written by Randall Park himself, is modern while keeping the popular Asian hip hop era alive. In the movie, Marcus’ band name, Hello Peril is a play on “Yellow Peril,” a term used in the late 1870s by Western people who feared Asian immigration.

The writing, comedic yet telling, highlights symbolic meaning to food in the Asian culture. There were themes and symbols established right from the beginning, such as Marcus’ mother’s soup.

During the exposition, the film establishes Asian culture in food through Sasha’s young and burgeoning passion for cooking by making small meals like rice and spam or helping Marcus’s mother cut vegetables.

From a young age, Sasha’s parents were not always there for her and Marcus’s mother soon became a mother figure to Sasha by helping her cook and learn recipes, fostering Sasha’s passion for cooking. The motif of food and how it changes through generations highlights familial values and how some Asian food traditions remain the same.

Not to be overlooked, the film features quirky, supporting characters to both the leads. Comedic and relevant jokes are peppered throughout the heartwarming banter. As the credits roll, the film concludes with Marcus Kim’s rap song about when he punched Keanu Reeves, “and it was better than any scene you could see in ‘Speed.’

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