Anyone But You Review (2023)
Director: Will Gluck
Screenwriters: Ilana Wolpert, Will Gluck
Starring: Sydney Sweeney, Glenn Powell, Alexandra Shipp, GaTa, Hadley Robinson, Michelle Hurd, Dermot Mulroney, Darren Barnet, Rachel Griffiths, Bryan Brown
Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powel have chemistry for days in Anyone But You, a delightful romantic comedy that is both hilarious and endearing. While the heyday of the rom-com may be behind us, Anyone But You has come along to inject some much-needed life back into the genre, reminding us all how fun it is to fall in love at the movies. Amid a shifting cinema landscape, in which Marvel’s decade-long box office dominance seems to be waning, this mid-budget sex comedy is a breath of fresh air for audiences who are looking for something a little raunchy and totally swoon-worthy.
Following in the footsteps of She’s the Man and Ten Things I Hate About You, which are based upon Shakespeare’s “12th Night Night” and “The Taming of the Shrew” respectively, Anyone But You is a loose adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing,” Shakespeare’s comedy of errors centered around deception, lies and disguises as a way to mock the conventions of courtly, romantic love.
Bea (Sweeney), a law student at Boston University, meets Ben (Glen Powel), who works in finance for Goldman Sachs, in a coffee shop one day. Bea is desperately trying to use the restroom but is told the bathrooms are for paying customers only. To make matters worse, there’s a very long line to the cash wrap. Bea is saved by Ben, who is at the front of the line, and sparks fly immediately. They eventually go back to his place where they talk all night, revealing parts of themselves they don’t normally show to anyone, like Bea’s uncertainty about becoming a lawyer and Ben’s grief over losing his mom. They eventually fall asleep in each other’s arms, but come morning Bea panics and leaves without waking Ben up. When she reconsiders and comes back, she overhears Ben, who is clearly hurt that Bea left, telling his friend Pete (GaTa) how much of a mess she is and how glad he is that she’s gone.
Six months later, Bea and Ben, who are both nursing grudges against each other based on this miscommunication, meet again at a bar, where they learn that Bea’s sister Halle (Hadley Robinson) is dating Pete’s sister, Claudia (Alexandra Shipp). Claudia and Halle later become engaged and plan to have their wedding in Sydney, Australia. Bea, who has now dropped out of law school and broken up with her fiance, meets Ben once again on the plane ride and soon learns that they’ll have to spend the entire trip together, in the same house. Hijinks ensue.
While “Much Ado About Nothing” uses satire and irony to get its point across, Anyone But You is played mostly straight. The film takes its general premise, along with several character names, from the play, but that’s about as far as the film goes in regards to adapting it. The film does have moments of self-awareness, though, especially when it comes to poking fun at tried and true genre tropes, like the obligatory ‘go get the girl’ moment. Anyone But You knows it’s a romantic comedy, but instead of winking at us, it reminds us why those films work in the first place. It’s similar to director Will Gluck’s 2010 teen comedy Easy A, which was partly based on “The Scarlett Letter” and paid homage to teen films of the 80s like Say Anything and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Anyone But You stops short of directly acknowledging popular romantic comedies of the past, but When Harry Met Sally is an obvious influence on the film. Having Dermot Mulroney, who starred in 1997’s My Best Friend’s Wedding with Julia Roberts, play Bea’s father, felt like a nod as well.
Easy A proved to be a breakthrough role for Emma Stone, and the same can be said for Sydney Sweeney in Anyone But You, who also serves as a producer on the film. While both Sweeney and Powell were on their A game for this movie, it’s Sweeney who truly shines. Known for her emotional and heavy work on HBO’s ‘Euphoria‘ and Hulu’s ‘A Handmaid’s Tale,’ Sweeney gets a chance to stretch her legs in Anyone But You, showing off her slapstick comedy skills. It helps, of course, that the script itself, co-written by Gluck and Ilana Wolpert, is hilarious, with jokes packed into every page. There’s no shortage of wacky moments, and it’s entirely possible to laugh through the entire film. Absurd moments, like when Bea finds a spider down Ben’s shorts while on a hike and Ben strips naked in panic, are perfectly balanced with sincere moments of connection and understanding, like when Bea sings Ben’s serenity song, Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten”, to calm his fear of heights.
The script does have its flaws, though. It’s a bit thin in places, and characters like Jonathan and Margaret are severely underdeveloped. Their relationships with Bea and Ben are never explored beyond the surface level and because of that, the emotional stakes don’t feel as high as they could be. Their break ups lack clarity and neither Jonathan nor Margaret ever feel like actual competition. This doesn’t break the film, though, because it positions Ben and Bea’s own self-doubt, insecurities, and miscommunications as the real obstacles to their relationship. As far as the rest of the supporting cast goes, rapper GaTa is an absolute scene stealer as Pete, whose every line reading can only be described as perfect. His scenes with Bryan Brown, who plays Pete’s stepfather, Roger, are some of the best in the film.
Anyone But You takes a tale as old as time, with recognizable tropes and characters, and updates it for contemporary audiences. The film manages to balance it’s humor and heart, paying homage to some of the most popular romantic comedies while still telling its own story. Sweeney and Powell’s star chemistry is like a lightening rod, reminding us that love, in all its ridiculous, heartbreaking and hilarious glory, is something that never gets old.