Anyone but You: All Wits Go Halting Off

Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell star in Anyone But You. Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures and IMDb Pro

Anyone but You is a gift for tormentors of English majors the world over. Drawing inspiration from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing this wearisome rom-com reminds that having several different pieces may promise an intriguing jigsaw mash-up, but that doesn’t guarantee anything worth seeing comes together. Tripped up by unamusing childish humor, Anyone but You mostly falls victim to formulaic conventions mediocre performances can’t enrich. That said, what makes it frustrating is a constant sense of potential throughout the film.

Sydney Sweeney plays Bea, a young twenty-something afraid of where her life is going. She meets Ben portrayed by Glen Powell (Devotion and Top Gun: Maverick) at a coffee shop, and though the two quickly hit it off, things just as swiftly go awry. Embittered, the two become antagonistic towards one another, yet can’t avoid contact thanks to the union of Bea’s sister Halle with Ben’s best friend’s sister Claudia. Fearful of ruining their loved ones’ wedding, Bea and Ben decide to fake affection for one another. With animosity set aside, they slowly come to realize embers of that first romantic spark may still start a fire.

The opening of Anyone but You hits all the right notes. Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell have a delightful meet cute. They show a wonderful chemistry maintained across the film. However, Anyone but You seems determined to strive for juvenile jokes its performers can’t sell. Often this isn’t the fault of acting, the gags simply aren’t funny. Although, that said, I’m incredibly inclined to reread Much Ado About Nothing to try and determine what inspired the butt-fingering scene.

A man leans on table to talk to a woman in Anyone But You
Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney star in Anyone But You. Image: courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

This same weakness permeates the whole cast. Everyone from Bryan Brown to GaTa fits their roles well. Yet, every so often the quality of acting drops dangerously near amateurish. It happens to everyone at some point throughout the film, especially during exaggerated deliveries. I suppose these occur for comic affect, such as when Glen Powell flings off all his clothes in terror or Alexandra Shipp crassly remarks about loving her future wife. Still, those instances turn Anyone but You into a cartoonish high school theater production.

Speaking of juvenile, no one in this movie knows how to swear. Now, I’ve got zero fucking problem with expletives flying then and there, but holy shit. Anyone but You awkwardly drops f-bombs like middle schoolers who just learned the word. That’s to say, the characters seem to understand it can emphasize, even humorously season what’s said, but when to say it effectively is a skill they have yet to acquire. Furthermore, the film goes out of its way trying to shock a laugh such as when a bogan surfer flashes his penis.

Granted, this movie isn’t for all markets. Its main selling points seem to be pretty people in next to nothing or nothing at all whenever possible. And from a shallow shore there’s eye candy aplenty whichever way one’s sexual appetite inclines. Filmmakers even contrived ridiculous reasons to get people down to lingerie such as when stick figure Australian model Charlee Fraser whips off her dress to swat out a roaring fire.

Those coming to this movie simply to ogle won’t be disappointed. However, unlike films such as Magic Mike which blend comedic notions with fine physiques, Anyone but You feels more shameless than clever. It’s almost like filmmakers are trying to elicit unearned laughs by bribing audiences with beautiful bodies.

Making matters worse is the editing. Multiple dialogue exchanges are made irritatingly hard to watch thanks to frenetic cuts. Not only have simple conversations been recorded from more angles than necessary, the editing team also seems determined to reward such missteps by including them all. Consequently, a brief chat turns into a hundred high speed cuts. Even when dialogue is a common shot reverse shot, the editing snips the scene into one second increments. The result is a grimace inducing flurry of frames jumping back and forth at a seizure inducing flicker. It creates a frantic visual pace that never fits the moment.

Still, overall, director Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends With Benefits) has managed to capture the look of a rom-com. The only downside is that this appearance is essentially generic. There’s nothing exceptional visually, yet Anyone but You doesn’t really seem like a chance to blaze trails. This is romcom junk food through and through. As such, the vivid colors of its Australian setting and warm amber atmosphere in intimate moments is comfortably familiar.

The script by Illana Wolpert and Will Gluck mainly retreads old territory. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been seen in a dozen other romantic comedies. Yes, it takes cues from Much Ado About Nothing; however, Anyone but You fails to mine some of its own potential. Excuse the spoilers (or skip ahead), but there’s an entirely unexplored aspect of Ben’s relationship with his dead mother. Plus, Bea’s aimlessness never has any gravity since it’s hard to feel sorry for a beautiful twenty-something from a clearly wealthy family, but since that’s a standard rom-com character plight, the screenplay doesn’t offer her any more depth.

Throughout the film quotes from the play pop up as graffiti, book covers, or inexplicably drawn on the beach. It’s the movie’s way of reminding audiences it stems from highly regarded source material. However, for some viewers, Anyone but You is merely a reminder to rewatch the “Much Ado About Nothing” production from 2011 starring Catherine Tate and David Tennant. That hits the vibe this film is aspiring for much better.

At the end of the day, Anyone but You is another forgettable rom-com. Although college essays may dissect it someday to comment on its threadbare connection to Shakespearean material, the movie doesn’t do much more than borrow plot points and steal lines like an Etsy cottagecore hack selling burnt wood signs. Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell have some decent chemistry. Meanwhile, the supporting cast do their best. Unfortunately, bad jokes ruin the comedic potential of a quality cast. Add on bad editing, and Anyone but You won’t ease the anguish of a torturing hour.

Written by Jay Rohr

J. Rohr is a Chicago native with a taste for history and wandering the city at odd hours. In order to deal with the more corrosive aspects of everyday life he writes the blog and makes music in the band Beerfinger. His Twitter babble can be found @JackBlankHSH.

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