The Next Big Asian American Rom-Com Is Coming. Here Are 8 Others To Watch Before Then
The trailer for the Netflix rom-com Always Be My Maybe has dropped, and it's the Ali Wong-Randall Park matchup that Asian America — not to mention anybody who appreciates two comedians in peak form — has been waiting for.
There are so few Asian American entries in the rom-com genre that you will get all the feels seeing Wong play alter ego Sasha Tran, a Type A celebrity chef who slays in a sleek red gown as much as she does in the kitchen, "our own Asian Oprah," as she's called in the trailer.
Your clammy, little heart will twitch as Randall Park's character sweet-natured, struggling musician Marcus Kim pines for Sasha, his teenage love, and gets his hopes up — when she splits from beau Daniel Dae Kim — then dashed when she starts bedding Keanu Reeves.
You read that right. This movie has cast Randall Park, Daniel Dae Kim and Keanu Reeves as Wong's love interests.
See for yourself. Definitely watch to the end:
Seeds were planted for Always Be My Maybe when Wong casually mentioned to the New Yorker a few years ago that she and Park, an old pal and fellow UCLA alum, had long talked about making their own version of rom-com crown classic When Harry Met Sally.
The director, Nahnatchka Khan, has history with the leads having cast Park as the dad in her ABC sitcom creation Fresh Off the Boat and hired Wong as a writer. She told LAist that the romantic chemistry between the actors is "off the charts" and because the two have been friends for so long, "the best moments in the movie are when they're joking with each other because it feels real."
The film will make humorous nods to the Asian American experience, with Khan laughingly pointing out that Park's character plays in a band called "Hello Peril" (hello, wordplay!).
The film starts streaming May 31 — in time for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Until then, we've got some other Asian American-led rom coms you can binge on. (OK, some could pass for romantic dramas with funny bits or coming-of-age stories that are heavy on the romance, but there are so few to choose from, we aren't sticklers.) If you like climactic airport scenes, matchmaking, tsk-tsking parents, romantic rivals and of course, weddings, do we have a list for you.
MISSISSIPPI MASALA (1992)
In between filming Spike Lee joints, 'Mo Better Blues and Malcom X, Denzel Washington played a sweet, self-employed carpet cleaner who falls for a carefree Indian African emigre (Sarita Choudhury) named Mina. Rumors about the symmetry-blessed pair start to fly in their small town, with friends and relatives on both sides having trouble accepting their steamy, multicultural romance. A subplot about Mina's dad — and his memories of being forced to flee Uganda after military dictator Idi Amin expelled Asian residents — explains his complicated feelings toward his daughter's suitor.
THE WEDDING BANQUET (1993)
Before he directed films with monster-size budgets and big-name casts, Ang Lee made a small, intimate movie (price tag: $750,000) about Wai Tung, a Taiwan-born landlord enjoying domestic bliss with his boyfriend, Simon in Greenwich Village. Still, Wai Tung can't escape the nagging desire to please his parents even though they're tens of thousands of miles away in Taipei. And what they want, he can't deliver: Marry a woman and start a family. Or can he? The big set piece revolves around the wedding banquet for Wai Tung and one of his tenants, a Taiwanese artist in desperate need of a green card. Lee would later win an Oscar for his other gay romantic drama Brokeback Mountain, but The Wedding Banquet is arguably just as heartfelt.
DOUBLE HAPPINESS (1994)
Sandra Oh was in her early 20s when she sparked joy in Double Happiness playing Jade Li, a Chinese Canadian actress living at home with her little sister and traditional parents. Directed by Mina Shum, the movie follows Jade as her parents try to steer her toward a more stable career and a Chinese Canadian husband. But Jade can't quit the acting bug - or the gawky white guy she meets outside a club. A surf rock-y soundtrack by Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet (who did The Kids In the Hall theme) meshes with the movie's off-kilter vibe.
SAVING FACE (2004)
In Saving Face, a reserved surgeon Wil (Michelle Krusiec) from Queens is trying to figure out her love life out when suddenly her widowed mother (Joan Chen) shows up on her door stoop with news that she's preggers — but won't tell her anyone who the father is. Wil, who hasn't come out to anyone in her extended Chinese American family, puts up her mom while nervously pursuing a romance with dancer Vivian played by Lynn Chen. Saving Face was written and directed by Alice Wu, who drew on her own experiences coming out. Wu recalled in a 2005 interview how she rejected advice that she turn the lesbian love story into a hetero version, or that she cast Reese Witherspoon and Ellen Burstyn-types in the mother and daughter roles.
THE BIG SICK (2017)
Based on the true-life story of how comic Kumail Nanjiani (playing himself) came to be with his wife Emily (Zoe Kazan), the movie starts out with a meet-cute premise and stays predictably on course as he struggles to follow his heart and at the same time fulfill his parents' wishes that he marry a Pakistani girl. But the movie takes a turn when Emily falls deathly sick (not a spoiler, see title), and Nanjiani is forced to make some life-changing choices. Kazan is very sweet, but when an appealing Vella Lovell (deadpan Heather from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) shows up as one of the women Nanjiani's parents set him up with, you're left to wonder what could've been.
SET IT UP (2018)
Iconic action roles in Kill Bill and Charlie's Angels have overshadowed Lucy Liu's side hustle as a rom-com heroine. (She's starred in little-seen flicks The Year of Getting to Know Us with Jimmy Fallon and Watching the Detectives with Cillian Murphy.) She was last seen as Set It Up's Kirsten, the hard-charging boss at a sports news site who overworks her assistant Harper (Zoey Deutsch). Harper hatches a plan with the assistant of a venture capitalist (Taye Diggs) to "parent trap" their bosses, so they'll have less time barking at their underlings. The movie's chief focus is on the blossoming romance between the assistants themselves, but it's fun to watch Liu and Diggs play jaded 40-somethings rediscovering romance, all the while chewing up the scenery.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS (2018)
The biggest rom-com of the last decade — and the sixth top-grossing of all time — Crazy Rich Asians generated maybe almost as much money as the movie's mega-wealthy Young family of Singapore keeps under the mattress. If you like your rom-coms dripping with conspicuous consumption and stunning locales, Crazy Rich Asians is absolute eye candy. But the movie also has a strong emotional core about an Asian American woman (Constance Wu) standing up for her identity and family as outside forces try to break things up between her and her wealthy beau (Henry Golding).
TO ALL THE BOYS I LOVED BEFORE (2018)
Before the sequel To All the Boys I Loved Before comes out on Netflix, catch Lana Condor as Lara Jean, a quiet teenager with a burning passion for romance. Based on the YA series by Jenny Han, To All the Boys I Loved Before follows a tried-and-true rom-com set-up: Lara Jean and classmate Peter (played by Noah "whoa, whoa, whoa" Centenio) pretend to date, so they can make their crushes jealous. But lo and behold, they fall for each other within a running time of 99 minutes. Teen show standby Ross Butler of Riverdale and 13 Reasons Why joins the cast for Part 2 as Peter's bud.
10:20 a.m., May 16: This article was updated with information about the trailer.
This article was originally published on April 23, 2019.