Anyone But You Review | “Easy, Breezy, Martin Scorsese”

by Andrew Parker

You don’t go to a rom-com like Anyone But You Expecting surprises. And you certainly don’t get any at all in director and co-writer Will Gluck’s latest. Everything happens exactly as the viewer expects it will, and nothing ever deviates from the plan. It stars attractive people who flirt, act like they hate each other, and gradually realize that they love each other deeply. There are bumps in the road along the way. They embarrass themselves. They are borderline unlikable people put into opposition with folks that are all quirkier than they are. You know the formula by now. But the bar for these types of movies has been so lowered by overall rom-com market saturation that it’s a nice change of pace when a film like Anyone But You manages to be consistently funny. It’s not a classic by any stretch, but rom-com enthusiasts searching for literally anything that’s not a Hallmark movie will be deeply appreciative.

Anyone But You kicks off with – what else? – a meet cute, as finance bro f-boy Ben (Glen Powell) does a solid for a woman he doesn’t even know, but could clearly use some help: Bea (Sydney Sweeney), a harried law student on her way to interview for an internship. This leads to a date that goes remarkably well until the following morning, when insecurities are shown, wires are crossed, and they end up parting ways, thinking they’ll never see each other again. To their surprise, the sister of Ben’s best friend happens to be marrying Bea’s sister. And wouldn’t you know it? They just so happened to be invited to the intimate destination wedding in Sydney, Australia. Ben and Bea try their hardest to keep things civil for the sake of their loved ones, but it’s an uphill battle. But when Bea’s overbearing parents (Dermot Mulroney and Rachel Griffiths) invite her recently dumped ex-fiancee (Darren Barnet) to the festivities, Ben becomes lovestruck at the sight of his hottie Aussie ex (Charlee Fraser), and some family members try to mount an elaborate ruse to make Bea and Ben a couple, the sworn enemies team up to pretend that they’re deeply in love, both for revenge and to get everyone off their backs.

You can see where this over-plotted, deeply Shakespearian indebted story is headed already, right? In some scenes, the writing is literally on the wall. Anyone But You isn’t rocket science, but rather something that can be easily slapped together from elements found on the periodic table of cinematic cliche elements. Make it silly, keep it sweet, don’t overstay the welcome. Create some set pieces where the ruse is nearly found out. Pepper in some scenes where they realize they might be good for each other after all. Toss in a few gross out scenes to make the audience roll out of sheer shock value, and to keep those unromantic types in the audience who’ve been dragged along by their partners interested. Have a huge blow out fight at the end of the second act. Add a grand gesture of love to close things out. And bam. There’s your movie. There’s Anyone But You.

It’s easy to write this whole thing off with a shrug, but within the simplistic and highly telegraphed framework of Anyone But You lies enough laughs to make it all worthwhile. Powell and Sweeney make for an attractive couple with good chemistry, but their individual performances really come to life whenever they employ their smart senses of timing or previously untapped talents as gifted physical comedians. (Powell might be the better overall actor, but when it comes to absolutely selling the hell out of a bit, Sweeney goes as hard as possible at every turn.) They’re matched nicely by Gluck’s penchant for hiring talented character actors to provide ample support, with Bryan Brown and GaTa stealing every scene they pop up in as a stoner father and absent minded son trying to bring our leads closer together. Much like Gluck’s Easy A and Friends with Benefits, Anyone But You derives a lot of joy simply watching people who are great at what they do getting the chance to go full on silly.

The script from Gluck and Ilana Wolpert isn’t anything more than a photocopied outline of other films with original and amusing situations and inspired verbal sparring sessions written in to keep things punchy and interesting. And that’s just perfect for something that doesn’t want to do much more than entertain. It gives everyone something worthwhile to say, something interesting to do, and gives them plenty of space to come up with any ideas they might think are funnier. None of this adds up to all time rom-com classic status, but it will make a lot of genre buffs think of the classic line from that song “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”: “I think I remember the film, and as I recall, we both kinda liked it.” That’s the one thing Anyone But You has got.

Anyone But You opens in theatres everywhere on Friday, December 22, 2023.

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