Film Critic Simran Bains reviews Anyone But You, finding it to be a refreshing romantic comedy with a strong sense of place
Nestled in-between the large superhero blockbusters and high-budget musical reproductions that have recently taken over our screens, is Will Gluck’s charming and refreshing romantic comedy, Anyone But You. A revival of the genre that once took the 2000s by storm, Anyone But You outshines recent lacklustre rom-coms that have damaged the genre’s reputation, becoming a ‘last resort option’ on popular streaming services (like most Netflix Originals). Gluck’s rom-com instead earns a place on the silver screen, for its endearing plot, a plausible blend of wit and passion, but most remarkably, the well-executed chemistry between the film’s leading couple, Bea (Sydney Sweeney) and Ben (Glen Powell).
Anyone But You is loosely adapted from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the father of the rom-com, following the play’s formula of romance, wit, and deception, but neglecting the slightly extreme ‘fake murder’ plot. Following in the footsteps of classic literature remakes such as the much loved 10 Things I Hate About You (a remake of The Taming of the Shrew) and Clueless (adapting Jane Austen’s Emma), Gluck’s latest film is brimming with nostalgia, transporting audiences to two decades prior (a much simpler time, according to the millennial). The warm and fuzzy feeling the film creates, that Generation Z can now indulge in, is largely responsible for its huge success across a wide range of audiences.
The rom-com follows Bea, a law student who isn’t entirely certain about a future as a lawyer, and Ben, a seemingly self-assured bachelor who predictably works in finance. Ben and Bea share their modern meet-cute in a coffee shop, and sparks immediately fly between the attractive pair. However, for reasons the curious watcher will soon find out, Ben and Bea part ways with a bitter taste in their mouths, and it isn’t from a bad cup of joe. Months go by, when the two are reunited in unlikely circumstances, after Bea’s sister, Halle (Hadley Robinson) plans to wed the sister Ben’s best friend, Claudia (Alexandra Shipp). The two find themselves forced to cohabit for the wedding, in a gorgeous villa on Sydney’s sunny coast, and their passionate hatred for each other threatens to destroy the special occasion of their closest loved ones.
Consequently, to keep the peace, and particularly after their ex-relationships are thrown into the mix, Bea and Ben devise a plan to fake their own relationship. Gluck creates a humorous plotline in which we see the pair pretend to get along, through a series of fake yet dramatic displays of affection, despite their obvious hatred for each other. This involves a recreation of the infamously romantic Titanic pose on Sydney’s beautiful blue harbour, and an awkward encounter with a huntsman spider on a picturesque hike trail, that caused a very real reaction from Sweeney. Audiences begin to wonder whether the hatred between Bea and Ben can cope under the blazing Australian sun, and a classic case of the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope comes into play – a guilty pleasure of many rom-com lovers.
While the faces of romantic comedies are typically picked from a very selective rom-com pool, Powell and Sweeney make for refreshing leading roles, and their performances manage to outshine their conventionally attractive ‘rom-com looks’. Audiences are actually able to laugh at the witty exchanges between the pair, but simultaneously gush at their more tender moments, proving Ben and Bea’s characters create a perfectly striking balance between affection and humour, that is a direct result of the chemistry between Powell and Sweeney. This does make it easier for other characters to slip into the backdrop of Sydney’s romantic scenery, however, as despite the wedding taking place between Halle and Claudia, it is Ben and Bea that audiences are truly captivated by.
Anyone But You has successfully revived the rom-com genre with its refreshing plot for a new generation to enjoy, and a previous one to reminisce in. This is ultimately a result of the undeniable chemistry between Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney, though an uncredited part of the film’s success is indebted to the romantic backdrop of Sydney, that becomes the an important tritagonist of the film. If you love rom-coms, you will adore Anyone But You.
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