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Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, Jordan Stokes, and Matthew Wrather gather to overthink Netflix’s romantic comedy Always Be My Maybe, written by Ali Wong, Randall Park, and Michael Golamco (whose name Matt forgot on the podcast… sorry Michael!). They discuss the film from the perspective of representation, class and gentrification, intersectionality, and genre, loving romantic comedies while realizing how ridiculous they are.
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One specific detail in the movie that stood out to me that I don’t think was mentioned in the episode is that, at least near me, “Asian fusion” food has often been dismissed by Asian-Americans as being a Chinese thing. That is, there’s an expectation that a Thai restaurant is run by a Thai family, serving versions of what they grew up with, whereas “Thai fusion” is assumed to be run by Chinese people serving mostly Chinese food with Thai “accents.” I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the former assumption, but the latter tends to track out here. Given that ethnicity (rather than “race”) is at least mildly meaningful in the movie, I can’t help wondering if that was a deliberate connection beyond an oversimplified debate about assimilation versus cultural pride.
I also appreciated how it freely used the romantic-comedy beats, but wasn’t afraid to poke fun at them, the most prominent example being how Sasha pursues an oblivious Marcus, but also the suit shopping and Sasha’s disbelieving response to the big speech near the end being “not the good version”…oh, and Keanu Reeves, of course.
(The funny thing about the media fawning over Keanu Reeves, by the way, is how it kind of overlapped the barrage of “Ellen Degeneres isn’t as nice as you think she is” semi-ironic think-pieces, which basically amount to her telling interviewers that she doesn’t dance like a monkey whenever some random person walks up to her and demands it…)
It’s also interesting to see the very healthy “I can and will clearly go on without you, but it’d be so much better if you were there” sentiment contrasted with the (usually hilarious, for those who haven’t seen it) deep dive into the real-world psychology of a woman trying to live romantic-comedy clichés over in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” seeing as how this movie dropped just a couple of months after the series finale. There’s a lot of the same DNA, there, even if “Always Be My Maybe” is more bound by the formula in looking for a traditional ending. If anybody’s concerned about the inherent conservatism of romantic-comedies, I’d definitely recommend the show to shake that up. Plus, Rachel Bloom and the rest of the cast are great, there are musical numbers, and the whole thing’s on Netflix, so no excuses…
The connection to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is nicely observed… I don’t know if there’s direct influence, but there’s definitely some similarities.
By the way, I also want to call out two *shots* from the movie that we didn’t talk about: one, the shot where Ali Wong pulls back her lips to reveal BOTH sets of braces when she says “with tongue,” two, the shot that reveals that Keanu is bleeding from his scalp just a little bit.
No higher analysis, just that these were both glorious.