The 1990s brought audiences to the golden age of romantic comedies. Up-and-coming stars like Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan were able to launch decades-long careers after a few stints. However, the last decade has seen a decline in rom-coms mainly due to disinvestment from the studios and mid-budget movies becoming less popular. The general public still has a desire for rom-coms to be included in the theatrical experience, though, as we saw with the wildly successful Crazy Rich Asians. Sony is throwing its hat into the rom-com ring this holiday season with Anyone But You, a new raunchy love story that feels familiar enough while offering something new in the steamy dynamic between its two attractive leads.
Anyone But You gained a lot of attention earlier this spring while it was in production. Moviegoers were glued to any leaked photo of its stars Sydney Sweeney (Euphoria) and Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick) on the internet. We’ve seen this tactic before to get audiences rooting for its actors to actually get together in real life. It’s a dangerous game since a rom-com’s success can often rest on the chemistry of its leads alone. Regardless if that romance carries on in real life, it must be felt on screen no matter what. Just because two actors look good on the red carpet doesn’t mean that they make a good on-screen couple.
Writer-director Will Gluck, who has experience in the genre with films like Easy A and Friends with Benefits under his belt, adapts William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing with co-writer Ilana Wolpert. As such, Anyone But You draws heavy inspiration from other classic rom-coms adapted from Shakespeare like Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You. We follow Bea (Sweeney), a law student who has an unlikely cute meeting with Ben (Powell) at a Boston coffee shop. They hit it off right away and extend their amazing first date. Unfortunately, miscommunication on both their parts drives a wrench on a perfect day which leads them to never see each other again.
Or so we’re led to believe, until Bea’s sister Halle (Hadley Robinson) and Ben’s friend Claudia (Alexandra Shipp) announce their destination wedding in Sydney, Australia. And so both Bea and Ben are thrust into a lavish vacation where they have no choice but to tolerate each other’s presence. However, when it comes to family and weddings, nothing goes according to plan. The soon-to-be-married couple devise a plan with the help of Claudia’s parents, Carol (Michelle Hurd) and Roger (Bryan Brown), and Ben’s best friend Pete (played by rapper GaTa) to get the two sworn enemies to sleep together.
The goal isn’t to get the two to fall in love, everyone would just rather have Bea and Ben put their differences aside at least until the wedding is over. This gets further complicated when Bea’s overbearing father, Leo (Dermot Mulroney), and pushy mother, Innie (Rachel Griffiths), invite her ex-fiance Jonathan (Darren Barnet) to the destination wedding in their own secret plan to get them back together. In true rom-com fashion, the most sound option is for Bea and Ben to act like they’re dating so everyone can leave them alone. But, of course, their pretend relationship brings them closer than they expected and reignites their spark.
All the classic tropes are seen here! We have a wedding, loads of travel, exes, a cute dog, and an enemies turned to lovers relationship. There’s not much new here as we’ve all seen this story before and Anyone But You plays out like a fairly straightforward modern Shakespeare adaptation, but that’s not going to deter people from watching this movie. Those looking for a good old-fashioned romantic comedy already know what they’re getting themselves into. So, the question really comes down to its two main stars and whether or not they have what it takes to make this rom-com stand out from the many that have come before it.
The comedy in Anyone But You really takes off when Bea and Ben play up their act as a fake couple at every turn they get. There’s an over-the-top nod to Titanic on a yacht and some other running gags that are perhaps too raunchy to list here. Fans familiar with Sidney Sweeney’s work will be surprised to see her play up the physical comedy of the film. Her comedic timing is at its best when she gets the chance to let loose in these chaotic moments. Meanwhile, Powell looks like he’s at home in the rom-com genre having also starred in 2018’s Set It Up, which is an underrated Netflix favorite that still has fans asking for a sequel.
The chemistry between Sweeney and Powell is undeniable and makes for a wildly entertaining watch. Moreover, the film takes its time in showing off their individual sex appeal as they enjoy the Australian sun. The locations range from beautiful beaches to vast hiking trails to a luxurious home. Even with all of this rom-com eye candy, it can’t be ignored that some necessary emotional beats don’t quite land as intended. One can’t help but question if Sweeney was fit to lead a movie like this opposite of Powell, who arguably carries a lot of the romantic moments. On the other hand, there’s no one more welcome in this world than Dermot Mulroney as Bea’s dad. He brings just the right balance of humor and empathy as a concerned parent.
Ultimately, Anyone But You is not trying to reinvent the wheel of the classic rom-com. Director Will Gluck and his cast and crew are simply trying to remind viewers of what makes the genre so compelling and addictive in the first place. For what it’s worth, Anyone But You mostly works and is worth a watch on the big screen with a packed crowd, especially during its more absurd gags. It’s easy to get lost in its beautiful set pieces and comedic charm, even if the script feels incredibly familiar and is full of tropes. After all, it is Shakespeare and the witty dialogue speaks for itself. It’s hard to imagine if this will resonate with all general audiences, but for romantic comedy lovers, this one’s for you.