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Anyone But You

Directed by Will Gluck
Produced by Joe Roth, Will Gluck, and Jeff Kirschenbaum
Screenplay by Ilana Wolpert and Will Gluck Story by Ilana Wolpert Based on the play Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
With: Sydney Sweeney, Glen Powell, Alexandra Shipp, GaTa, Hadley Robinson, Michelle Hurd, Dermot Mulroney, Darren Barnet, Bryan Brown, Rachel Griffiths, Charlee Fraser, and Joe Davidson
Cinematography: Danny Ruhlmann
Editing: Tia Nolan and Kim Boritz-Brehm
Music: Este Haim and Christopher Stracey
Runtime: 103 min
Release Date: 22 December 2023
Aspect Ratio: 2.39 : 1
Color: Color

All romantic comedies are based around coincidence and contrivance, but the great ones skillfully conceal their plot machinations with clever writing and characters we fall in love with because, despite their many flaws (or maybe because of those flaws), they remind us of ourselves or of people we've known and loved. Applying an alternative for success in this genre, Will Gluck (Fired Up!, Easy A, Friends with Benefits) leans into the overt contrivances that give romcoms a bad reputation but can also make them guilty pleasures. Gluck may believe that the blatant fabrications in bad romcoms are what people, at least younger people, enjoy about movies of this type. If that's the case, it's a shame. It's a profitable shame but a shame nonetheless. However, if Gluck is sincerely trying to recapture the magic of the genre, his failure is almost beyond comprehension. I'm not exaggerating when I say that, of the roughly 6100 films I've seen in my life, Anyone But You may just be the most artificial movie I've ever seen.

The screenplay by Gluck and spec-script writer Ilana Wolpert (High School Musical: The Musical: The Series) is a modern-day take on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell star as Bea and Ben, a hot but insecure girl and a hot but shallow guy who can't stand each other because of a couple of misunderstandings that occur before the opening credits. When the sisters of these two insufferable protagonists decide to have a destination wedding in Australia, Bea and Ben are forced to pretend to be a couple in order to get through the occasion.

From the opening meet-cute, which quickly devolves into slapstick in the bathroom that I'm not sure is meant to be realistically funny or broadly farcical (it doesn't succeed as either, thus setting up the rest of the picture perfectly), to the weak rationale for their mutual hatred, every note in this movie plays false. Every joke is a dud; every set-piece is labored; none of the one-dimensional family relationships play credibly; the specifics of the location feel off; things are randomly planted for no reason other than the requirement of setting up a gag that will pay off later; the stakes never feel substantive; the threats of potential disaster never materialize; and the way the film establishes the ubiquitous overplayed-but-undeniably-catchy-pop-song-from-twenty-or-so-years-prior-that-everyone-will-eventually-be-singing isn't worthy of a bad '80s sitcom.

The once cherished romcom genre has been moribund for the past couple of decades, so when a middling one competently checks all the boxes, like the prior year's Ticket to Paradise, it feels like a cause for celebration. Anyone But You follows a nearly identical set-up and structure, with many of the same tropes, characters, narrative turns, and sequences as the 2022 George Clooney / Julia Roberts vehicle, just with younger leads and without a credible rationale for why their characters would despise each other.

Still, while romantic comedy is one of the most difficult genres to execute well, it's also one of the most forgiving. There's no way around the fact that putting impossibly attractive, scantily clad movie stars in a beautiful, idyllic setting and sliding them around a silly narrative chessboard for less than an hour and forty-five minutes almost always results in something palatable. So, while Anyone But You might qualify as the most artificial movie I've seen in my entire life, it's far from the worst film I've watched even this year.

Twitter Capsule:
Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell look fantastic playing a hot but insecure girl and a hot but shallow guy who must pretend to be a couple even though they hate each other for no credible reason in Will Gluck's intentionally artificial romcom.