Anyone But You (2023)

I don't see what anyone can see in anyone else

Anyone But You is a bit phoned in, which is simultaneously disappointing and also beside the point. It’s disappointing because, with a few tweaks and another script revision, this could have been an outstanding good-time, R-rated romcom the likes and style of which we so rarely see theatrically released these days. In fact, director Will Gluck’s previous Friends With Benefits comes to mind. Instead, it’s like something you stuck in the microwave to defrost for six minutes: alternately scorching and tepid.

On the other hand, Anyone But You’s laziness is not that backbreaking. With a leading duo this outrageously attractive and full of chemistry, the bones of an excellent romantic scenario, and four or five terrific scenes, Gluck and co were basically playing with house money. All they had to do was not tie their shoelaces together and they’d get over the finish line, and they get at least that far. You come to this movie to see Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney in various states of undress alternately bickering with each other and smushing their bodies together; and that is what you get!

So that’s why Anyone But You gets the most half-hearted of thumbs ups. Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney are eye-wateringly sexy, and they convey as people who can’t keep their eyes or hands off each other, but resent those urges. It’s fun to watch them sort through that. Powell, in particular, is outstanding as per usual (my enduring affection for his inspired turn in Everybody Wants Some!! hasn’t worn off). Sweeney is fine, too, though too often when she’s delivering expository dialogue you can “feel” her acting the emotions.

As for what doesn’t work, you can start with the inciting incident itself: After a meet cute, Bea (Sweeney) and Ben (Powell) part on bad terms following the shallowest, wrong-time-wrong-place misunderstanding. It’s hardly a core difference in personality or viewpoint that needs to get shifted for the romance to work, so it leaves a bit of “just get on with it already” residue that the film never shakes.

This core problem isn’t exactly helped by the central scenario, either: At a destination wedding (a beautiful Sydney, Australia), Bea and Ben decide to pretend to be a couple so that… people will stop suggesting they should be a couple? And possibly make some exes jealous? Fake relationships and enemies-to-lovers can serve as a terrific structure for romantic tension, but this is pretty flimsy.

The film is also lacking in great punchlines. There are some laughs from both the leads and the decent ensemble surrounding them (especially GaTa as a goofy stoner), but it’s more a slather of “funny-ish” quips and moments than anything iconic. There are really only a few truly memorable incidents, the best being a Titanic reenactment that goes wrong with a Natasha Bedingfield needle drop.

So I’m glad to see a theatrically-released romcom with some real punchy chemistry and a memorable pair of leads, I just wish it had a bit more ambition to rise above its trappings.

Is It Good?

Good (5/8)

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