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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Always Be My Maybe is an upbeat romantic comedy about childhood BFFs that stars former Fresh Off the Boat colleagues Randall Park and Ali Wong (they also co-wrote it, and FOTB exec producer Nahnatchka Khan directs). It also features lots of sumptuous food and a thoughtful look at contemporary Asian American families. Expect sexual situations -- with kissing, passionate embraces, post-sex scenes in bed, and a comic back-seat-of-the-car hook-up -- as well as frank, casual conversations about virginity, masturbation, condoms, multiple partners, and more. Language includes "s--t," "bitch," "d--k," one use of "f--k," and more. Characters drink in social settings, and one of the main characters smokes pot in several scenes (with little negative judgment/consequence); he also gets drunk and pees onstage. The movie may tell a familiar tale -- "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back" -- but in this case, the girl calls most of the shots in the relationship. And there are clear messages about the value of family, integrity, hard work, compromise, and communication.
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What's the story?
In ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE, childhood best friends from San Francisco lose touch after an awkward teenage sexual encounter. Sixteen years later, Sasha (Ali Wong) is a celebrity chef in Los Angeles, and Marcus (Randall Park) still lives at home and works with his widowed dad, Harry (James Saito). Marcus is in the same band and playing in the same neighborhood dive bars that he's always played. When Sasha returns to San Francisco to open a new restaurant, their paths cross again. Both have a significant other in their lives, but sparks still fly. It's scary this time, though, and that awkward moment from the past just doesn't go away. Most important, their lives and values have evolved so differently -- Sasha is now a sophisticated red-carpet gal, while Marcus is unimpressed by grandeur. Still there's something between them that they can't ignore. Missteps and unorthodox relationships continue to keep them apart -- what will it take for these two people so obviously meant for each other to find their way home?
Is it any good?
What could have been a routine, predictable fairy tale stands out thanks to spirited performances, spot-on cultural observations, and an appearance by a movie star eager to poke fun at himself. Always Be My Maybe is a collaborative effort by people who had a common goal and let vanity fall away to find the humor in two characters stumbling their way toward a lifelong connection. And the food, whether gloriously pretentious or marvelously homey, is a tasty side dish to the main story.
That said, it's a good but not great movie. There's minimal stereotyping (Sasha's parents bear the brunt of it), but for the most part the characterizations are thin and unsurprising. And situations are often farcical, though appealing. It's still worth a look, and it's great to see another mainstream movie tackling representation in a positive way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about diversity in mainstream movies. Do you think it's improving? Why or why not? Do you watch and appreciate films about cultures other than your own?
When did you know how Always Be My Maybe would end? How does being able to guess at parts of a plot affect your enjoyment of a movie?
What role does sex play in the story? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
Food is an essential element in this movie. How did the filmmakers relate the different meals, kitchens, restaurants, and cooking styles to the two main characters? How do you think cuisine plays a symbolic role in the storytelling?
- On DVD or streaming: May 31, 2019
- Cast: Ali Wong, Randall Park
- Director: Nahnatchka Khan
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Cooking and Baking, Friendship
- Character strengths: Communication, Integrity
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, drug use/references and language
- Last updated: September 19, 2019
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