Of All the Restaurant Scenes in “Always Be My Maybe,” This One Might Matter Most
In the new Ali Wong and Randall Park Netflix movie, Always Be My Maybe, the food and restaurant scenes — which are the focus of the film — have gotten a ton of attention. Plenty of people have talked about the pivotal kimchi stew, the high-end trendy restaurant that plays sounds of the venison when it was still a live animal, and the Niki Nakayama-designed food. But there’s one restaurant scene that deserves way more attention as a pivotal plot scene than Keanu Reeves crying into his plate or Park asking for a “monochrome burrito to-go:” the scene where Wong’s celebrity chef Sasha goes to dim sum with Park’s Marcus, who until this point has been painted as someone who never did much with his life.
Having just broken up with her branding-focused fiancé, Sasha decamps with Marcus from a child’s birthday party to the Clement Street dim sum joint of their teen years. After using her chopsticks for emphasis as she rants about her ex over plastic glasses of tea, Sasha says, “I can’t believe this place is still in business, what are we even doing here?” Her trajectory has been “up” and away from the affordable, accessible restaurants of their childhood, and this is like returning to elementary school and seeing how tiny the chairs are for her.
“There, there,” Marcus comforts her, unempathetically. “I eat here twice a week,” he says, representing his character’s lack of change since those days. While Sasha was out looking for better and best, Marcus has been happily enjoying the status-quo, the “good enough.” He explains to Sasha that she painted her whole childhood “with the shit brush,” but this spot was undeserving. She eats a har gau (shrimp dumpling) and agrees that the food is actually good, but adds, as a joke, “the women are still so rude and disappointed neither of us speak Cantonese.” What follows is a subtle, pivotal moment in the development of Marcus’s character.
“Hello,” he says to the server, followed by a stream of Cantonese, much to Sasha’s surprise. “I learned,” he explains. “Better service,” and, he adds, as another steamer of dumplings lands on their table, “sometimes free shumai.” In that moment, the script begins to suggest that while Marcus’s interests and activities may not have changed since high school — he still plays in the same band, lives in the same room, and eats at the same restaurants — he’s grown as a person and isn’t the backwards man-child that Sasha sees him as.
Even though it’s a relatively small scene, it is perhaps the most important few minutes of character development in the movie. It’s not for laughs or for tears, but purely to show us who Marcus is… over dumplings.