Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell revive the power of the rom-com in their new Shakespeare-inspired film, Anyone But You.
While there have been glimpses at a renaissance of the romantic comedy, no film has made the future of the genre look brighter than Will Gluck’s new film, Anyone But You. The film follows in the vein of some of the most iconic romantic comedies of all time, such as Clueless or 10 Things I Hate About You, taking a famous Shakespearian piece and giving it a current and modern spin.
Anyone But You opens up on a coffee shop meet-cute between indecisive law school student Bea (Sydney Sweeney) and playboy investment banker Ben (Glen Powell). The two instantly feel a connection build between them, leading to an unforgettable and impromptu first date. While the two clearly connect, falling asleep while staying up talking into the night, Bea leaves without a word the next morning, scared of what this could mean as she is newly single for the first time in her life. When she comes to her senses that this could be the man for her, she goes back to Ben’s place just to hear him speaking ill of her to his best friend Pete (GaTa).
Cut to six months later, Ben goes out to meet Pete, his sister Claudia (Alexandra Shipp) and her new girlfriend Halle (Hadley Robinson). Halle also invites her sister to meet her new girlfriend and low and behold, Halle’s sister is Bea. While Ben and Bea agree to play nice for the night, they ultimately are put to the test when later Claudia and Halle announce they are going to get married in Australia and the whole wedding party must stay in the same house for the duration of the wedding weekend.
While the animosity between Bea and Ben is palpable, the rest of the wedding party tries to trick them into sleeping with each other to resolve their tension which is poised to ruin the wedding weekend. Bea and Ben quickly catch on, but after agree to go along with the idea that they are together for their mutual benefit. Ben goes along with the plot because he learns Margaret (Charlee Fraser), Pete and Claudia’s cousin who he calls the one who got away, will be at the wedding. Bea on the other hand agrees to play along as she comes to find that her parents secretly flew out her ex-fiancé Jonathan (Darren Barnet) in hopes of a reconciliation. The pair devise a plan to make everyone think they are dating to make Margaret jealous and get Bea’s parents off her back.
Anyone But You by no means reinvents the genre of romantic comedies, but it revives it in the way audiences have been long craving as it has the perfect combination of ingredients. Starting with two undeniable movie stars, already in the midst of their rise. At times, the film veers into almost cheesy rom-com territory, but Sweeney and Powell have such strong chemistry and likability in their performances that it plays into their charming depiction of their respective characters.
One of the biggest things that makes the film work is its ability to use current references and language that naturally fit into the film rather than feeling like the script was written by a grown man trying to pander to a late teen/twenty-something audience. A running bit within the film is that, while Ben’s character is seen doing his morning workouts and is shirtless for potentially an even third of his screentime, Bea comes to realize Ben is not actually athletic but rather just “hot-girl fit”, meaning he’s in shape only in a superficial sense. Another running bit is that Austrialian coffee is so strong it’s almost like a drug, something Ben has quite a bit of experience with due to his time working at Goldman Sachs (playing, of course, into the investment banker, “fiancé bro” stereotype.
Finally, the film completely leans into the spectacle of the romantic comedy genre. While there is plenty of wit in the writing and delivery of lines, the slapstick comedy aspect of the film evokes genuine laughter. To help sell their ploy, when Bea and Ben are on a boat for the wedding rehearsal dinner, they decide to go to the bow and recreate the iconic pose from Titanic. While it garners plenty of positive feedback and helps sell their deception to the rest of the wedding party, the minute people stop paying attention to them Ben lets go of Bea leading her to fall into the Sydney Harbor. Ben jumps in after her and the rescue mission that ensues leaves the audience in stitches and guarantees they will never be able to listen to Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” the same way again.
Anyone But You, however, does fall victim to some classic rom-com flaws. While it’s an extremely enjoyable watch, the logistics of the film don’t entirely add up. At first, the cast of characters is rationalized to be so focused on the key players because the film mainly takes place at Claudia’s dad’s house where only the wedding party is staying, but as the movie progresses the audience begins to wonder- is seemingly no one else attending the wedding? The rehearsal dinner is just the wedding party, but when the wedding ceremony actually happens there is an entire crowd of people that the audience is seeing for the first time.
While the film has a good pace in the beginning, the resolution of the final act becomes muddled and rushed, as it seems like Bea and Ben just can’t get on the same page. While the “will-they?” “won’t they?” back and forth is charming, by this point in the film it feels like too much of an extraneous way to keep these two love interests apart to increase the drama of their potential for a reconciliation.
There is no denying Anyone But You is an action-packed, fun return to a genre that feels like it hasn’t been done right in a long time. The charming characters and hilarious writing allow the audience to see past any logistical or logic discrepancies because all and all the goal of the film is to let the audience have fun. And fun is exactly what this movie is.
Anyone But You will be released in movie theaters on December 22, 2023.