Anyone But You (2023, dir. Will Gluck)

by | Dec 28, 2023

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 103 mins

UK Distributor: Sony Pictures

UK Release Date: 26 December 2023

WHO’S IN ANYONE BUT YOU?

Sydney Sweeney, Glen Powell, Alexandra Shipp, GaTa, Hadley Robinson, Michelle Hurd, Dermot Mulroney, Darren Barnet, Rachel Griffiths, Bryan Brown, Charlee Fraser, Joe Davidson

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Will Gluck (director, writer, producer), Ilana Wolpert (writer), Jeff Kirschenbaum and Joe Roth (producers), Danny Ruhlmann (cinematographer), Tia Nolan (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Two people (Sweeney and Powell) pretend to be a couple, despite hating each other…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON ANYONE BUT YOU?

It was a given from the moment that Anyone But You was announced, from its classic premise of two enemies slowly falling for each other to the casting of impossibly handsome actors like Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell in the lead roles, that it was going to be an extremely traditional romantic-comedy. What’s surprising, however, is exactly how traditional a rom-com it is, in the sense that it gets its main inspiration from one of the most famous rom-coms of all time, by a certain up-and-comer called William Shakespeare.

Believe it or not – actually, the connection is so blatant that there’s no choice but to believe it – Anyone But You is a fairly loose modern-day retelling of the Bard’s oft-adapted play Much Ado About Nothing, a piece that arguably did many of the rom-com tropes before people even knew what a rom-com was, and is to this day cited as a primary source for the familiar but reliable template for the genre. In the case of director and co-writer Will Gluck’s new take, those tropes are alive and well, not to mention executed decently enough for pure crowd-pleasing entertainment, even if the results are far from Shakespearian.

This version of the classic tale initially sees our main couple Bea (Sweeney) and Ben (Powell) forming a genuine spark, after a meet-cute in a café leads to an unexpected first date together, but a misunderstanding draws them apart, to where they cannot stand to be in the same vicinity as each other. As it so happens, they’re both flying out together to Sydney, Australia for the wedding of Bea’s sister Halle (Hadley Robinson) and Ben’s friend Claudia (Alexandra Shipp), where several members of the wedding party attempt to pair the two together, believing their chemistry to be deniable. Even though Ben and Bea soon catch on to the scheme, they decide to fabricate a relationship anyway so that they can make their prospective partners Margaret (Charlee Fraser) and Jonathan (Darren Barnett) jealous, but as they spend more time together… well, you get the idea.

There isn’t anything spectacularly new or refreshing about Anyone But You, for it simply is just a straightforward run-of-the-mill romantic-comedy that so happens to be based loosely on one of the most famous examples of the genre. However, to its credit, it knows exactly what kind of movie it is, and does a perfectly fine job of being just that without overstepping any of its boundaries. Gluck and co-writer Ilana Wolpert hit just about every expected plot beat in their script, with an occasionally raunchy kick that puts it in the same category as Gluck’s other formulaic but enjoyable rom-com Friends with Benefits (though nothing in this movie ever gets quite as naughty), but Gluck’s ever-lively direction ensures that the film has enough energy to see itself toward the finish line in one piece. Sure, the plot’s as easy to predict as anything you’d expect from this genre, but it’s clearly enjoying itself while indulging in all these familiar tropes, emitting an energy that’s fairly irresistible.

That energy is certainly felt in the chemistry between its two leads, who are having fun as they play into the conventional archetypes that Shakespeare originally introduced, and function well together in a semi-screwball fashion that requires a decent amount of physical comedy from both of them. Of course, both Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell are both very good actors, for whom burning chemistry and individual charisma has come naturally to in nearly every role they’ve played yet, and each of them are actively putting their blossoming star power to good use here in a film that allows them to be charming, funny, sly and enjoyably petty with each other. As a plus, having recently seen Powell be on absolute fire in the yet-to-be-released Hit Man – look out for that absolute treat of a movie at some point next year via Netflix – this feels like a neatly spicy appetiser to Richard Linklater’s sizzling main course, as a means to show the world just how much a bona fide movie star this guy is before he truly takes off next year (trust me, Hit Man really is that good).

Critically speaking, Anyone But You is certainly flawed, perhaps heavily so. A large chunk of the comedy can feel forced, such as one scene that sees Powell strip naked for little reason other than for pure eye candy, and it’s not exactly subtle about its Shakespeare connections either, not only quoting exact lines from Much Ado About Nothing out of the blue but also plastering the text all across the screen in case you didn’t get what the movie is meant to be referencing.

Again, though, that’s just part of the territory when it comes to being a fluffy and largely inoffensive rom-com that hits all of the expected plot beats, as well as the occasional moment of raunch. As ever when it comes to formulaic stuff like this, it’s all in the execution, and thanks to some lively direction as well as a pair of well-adjusted romantic leads, Anyone But You is comfortably light Shakespeare-coded entertainment.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Anyone But You is an almost unashamedly formulaic modern rom-com that loosely adapts Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing with assistance from lively direction by Will Gluck, and some sizzling chemistry between leads Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell.

Three out of five stars

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