Something Old, Something New: 8 Ways ‘Anyone But You’ Brings Back The Big Screen Rom-Com
Jan 25, 2024   •   Mikhail Lecaros
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Jan 25, 2024   •   Mikhail Lecaros
Sydney Sweeney (HBO’s Euphoria, The White Lotus) and Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick) lead a spirited cast in Anyone But You, a romantic comedy built on the thin line between love and hate. Can attractiveness and star power elevate an old-fashioned rom-com?
An unfortunate byproduct of Hollywood’s obsession with sequels and franchises is the decrease in low- to mid-budget films in cinemas. While comedies and post-summer-award-bait-dramas are still being made, they’re more likely to be relegated to streaming and limited-release runs, if at all. Given studios’ prevailing (misguided) mentality that films need to acquire the bulk of their gross in the opening weekend to justify their existence, it’s a trend that won’t be going anyway anytime soon. At this point, merely releasing a film devoid of special effects and explosions has become an exception to the rule, making Anyone But You a breath of fresh air almost by default.
Bea (Sweeney) and Ben (Powell) are two strangers who go from meet-cute to shared evening in a New York minute. When their budding relationship ends in a misunderstanding, two years pass before a destination wedding reunites them against their wills. Posing as a couple to deflect their loved ones’ scrutiny, Bea and Benedict will have to hide their shared hatred just long enough to survive the weekend. What follows is a raunchy(-ier) take on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, with all the mind games, bickering, and innuendos that implies.
Drawing from classical literature in the name of romantic comedy is nothing new, as hit films like Clueless (based on Jane Austen’s Emma) and Easy A (based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter) have shown. Seeing how Shakespearian riffs such as 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s The Man (based on The Taming of the Shrew and The Tempest, respectively) fared equally well, updating Much About Ado About Nothing with two of today’s hottest stars should be a match made in Heaven.
The plot device of enemies pretending to love each other is simple, but the screenplay by Ilana Wolpert (High School Musical: The Musical) and director Will Gluck (Friends with Benefits) over-complicates things with belabored set-ups and punchlines a Nickelodeon sitcom would be embarrassed by.
Sweeney and Powell are attractive beyond reason, but the script isn’t as clever as it needs to be to keep things interesting when they aren’t onscreen. Indeed, any sequence where the two aren’t squabbling and/or falling in love tends to meander, if not outright collapse under the weight of obvious gags.
By the time you get to the umpteenth instance of a miscommunication that could have been solved with a 10-second conversation, you’ll be wondering when the characters will actually sit down to have the blasted talk. Ironically, the best way to watch the film is to avoid any trailers, as they pretty much revealed all the best parts months ago.
With the majority of provocative situations involving their characters, Sweeney and Powell are more than possessed of the physical attributes needed to get one’s attention – even when the sophomoric script lets them down, there are enough revealing outfits and compromising situations for both stars to distract most viewers.
While Sweeney and Powell carry the film, the supporting cast features a few familiar faces, from veterans Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding) and Michelle Hurd (E.R., Star Trek: Picard), to newcomers Alexandra Shipp (tick, tick… BOOM!), Hadley Robinson (Little Women), and Darren Barnet (Never Have I Ever).
The second and third acts take place in Australia, which lets a number of Australian actors round out the ensemble, including Rachel Griffiths (of HBO’s Six Feet Under, playing the latest in a long line of Americans), and Bryan Brown (The Thorn Birds) as a jovial patriarch whose inability to adlib helps convince Ben and Bea to go through with their scheme.
Supermodel Charlee Fraser gets a few scenes as Ben’s ex, Margaret, while Joe Davidson (TV’s Neighbours) gets big laughs as her musclebound squeeze, Beau.
Mild profanity and overt fanservice notwithstanding, there’s not much to set Anyone But You apart from any number of similar films. Indeed, despite the film’s entertainment value stemming almost entirely from its stars’ hotness, it manages to tick all the boxes of a formulaic rom-com. Of course, when said formula involves beautiful people in beautiful locales, one could certainly do worse than Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell.
With the script relying on contrivances and clichés, Anyone But You may not go down as a classic, but if you need a break from superheroes and sequels, the film delivers a breezy, feel-good time at the movies.
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