Critic’s Notebook: With ‘ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE,’ Netflix has become the top spot for romantic comedies​

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Courtesy of Netflix.

James C. Clay // Film Critic

ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE is available on Netflix now.

There once was a time when Matthew McConaughey could open a cheesy romance movie on just his smile and abs alone. Long over are the days where a film could have two casual singles spill coffee on each other and fall in love in 90 minutes. Viewers these days are too savvy for romantic comedies. The old tricks have died a slow and fiery death over the past decade.

Theaters these days are hyper-focused on the latest blockbusters (or remakes). It’s easy to see original mid-budget movies that rely on the chemistry of the leads make a small theatrical footprint in the cultural landscape. Take a look at comedies from earlier this year like ISN’T IT ROMANTIC and LONG SHOT, each received effusive praise from critics but didn’t connect with audiences. This is where Netflix comes in.

The streaming giant once was seen as the enemy (or the downfall of cinema due to the company mainly forgoing the theatrical window, aside from Oscar films like ROMA) in service of the releasing them day and date at home. Now, they have cornered the market on romantic comedies in a brilliant piece of programming. There is no better place than your cozy couch to watch two star-crossed lovers blowing kisses at each other for 90 minutes.

For this critic, it all started last year with the comedy SET IT UP, which starred up-and-comers Zoey Deutch and Glenn Powell as two overworked assistants who scheme to hook up their bosses together so they can get some time off work. This film subscribed to all the romantic comedy cliches, from the cheesy meet-cute to the predictable endings. Over time, filmmakers have packaged these films in a presentation that provides the lovestruck magic that viewers are longing for. Each film has its hook that allows them to feel unique on their own while still being some of the smoothest watches you’ll see all year.

Randall Park, left, stars alongside James Saito and Ali Wong in ‘ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE.’

While every film varies in quality, the latest effort, ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE, is being touted for its Asian-American cast and diverse presentation of San Francisco. Films like these are brimming with a much-needed culture that adds an extra element of newness to each comedy outing. These films are also bringing diverse filmmaking voices to the conversation, including ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE’s Nahnatchka Khan to NAPPILY EVER AFTER’s Haifaa al-Mansour. These are names you wouldn’t see headlining a 40 million-dollar studio film, but on Netflix, they are provided more creative control, and most likely more people will see these films than they would in a theater.

More standard fare has also stood out on Netflix, including TO ALL THE BOYS I LOVED BEFORE, THE PERFECT DATE and WHEN WE FIRST MET – which provide a place for gooey popcorn entertainment. There was a significant fear growing inside cinephiles across the world that Netflix was going to take over the landscape and burn it all down just for the sake of starting something new – kind of like Thanos… but for streaming.

Instead, they have a unique set of demographics who use their service, and in response, they are creating content for people of different ages, ethnicities backgrounds, economic standings, and faiths. While diversity in film isn’t about just checking boxes so you can appear to be “woke,” Netflix has organically crafted a catalog of movies that can seem inconsequential, yet in retrospect, provide a whole new way to fall in love with romantic comedies.

ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE is now streaming on Netflix. Check out Travis Leamons’ review of the film here.