Arts movie review

Anyone but You would have been loved more by anyone but me

A typical rom-com that anyone, especially you, could have predicted


Anyone but You


Glen Powell, Sydney Sweeney

Released December 2023

Rated R. Now playing.

There is a scene in Anyone but You where Bea (played by Sydney Sweeney), after spilling a drink on her pants and drying them with a bathroom’s hand dryer, walks out of a washroom only to be stopped by Ben (played by Glen Powell). Bea then casually asks if this is the moment when he asks for her number, and Ben reluctantly agrees. But we find out that what he really wanted to do was point out that she had toilet paper stuck to her foot. I think this is the only moment in the movie I found funny.

People who like rom-coms would have probably loved this movie, but I stand by my belief that when you watch one rom-com, you’ve watched all of them. It’s pretty telling that my favorite parts of watching this movie were the faces I would make to the person sitting next to me (I watched this in a group) whenever I found something cringeworthy in the film.

Nonetheless, Anyone But You did have its special moments. I thought the movie before the six-month time skip was referencing Romeo and Juliet, but once the characters were properly introduced, I realized that the movie was actually an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Bea (originally Beatrice in Shakespeare’s work) is a Boston University law school dropout (the theater cheered when Boston was displayed on the silver screen) who hits it off with Ben (originally Benedict), a business trader for Goldman Sachs. However, due to some miscommunication, they grow resentful of each other and cut it off there.

After the time skip, Ben and Bea meet again in a pub coincidentally. Of course, once Bea and Ben meet, they immediately antagonize each other for their actions half a year ago, and this kickstarts Bea and Ben’s enemies-to-lovers arc. The pub scene also introduced me to characters like Claudia (played by Alexandra Shipp) and Halle (played by Hadley Robinson), the film’s versions of Claudio and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing, respectively. Essentially, Claudia and Halle are getting married in Australia, and they want both Bea and Ben to come because the former is Halle’s sister, while the latter is Claudia’s friend. Since it will start the plot, both Bea and Ben begrudgingly accept, taking the same flight there and even starting a scene on the plane, where Ben kept making subtle jabs against a bystander to get to Bea, which made me writhe in my seat.

Forced proximity is a ubiquitous trope in many enemies-to-lovers stories, so it was no surprise that it also played a part in this movie. It just cemented my initial thoughts about the two leads getting together in the end, and even if it was about the journey, the trip there took the old beaten path. And honestly, Bea and Ben should have gotten together with their ex-lovers.

Bea has an ex-fiancé named Jonathan (Darren Barnet), whom she leaves for ambiguous reasons. When she meets Ben, Bea and Jonathan are on a relationship break, and when Ben finds out, he accuses her of cheating. Likewise, Ben also has relationship drama, as going to Australia makes him meet his ex-girlfriend Margaret (Charlee Fraser), with whom Ben is still somewhat smitten.

After both have misadventures with their respective exes, Bea and Ben decide that they should start “fake” dating each other to avoid problems with them. I think they should have each gotten back with their exes because Bea and Ben lacked actual chemistry, and the relationship seemed superficial. In contrast, both have better dynamics with their exes because the “fake relationship” vibe is not sold well. As a result, this really dampened the ending when Bea and Ben got together, but Jonathan and Margaret also became a couple in the end? It was a questionable decision since their only interaction on screen was sharing a glance, so it comes off as awfully contrived.

There is also a moment in the movie’s opening scene where Ben talks about a wrench his mom, who is implied to have passed away, gave him. The film highlighted it a few times, so I thought it would be something important later on — a Chekhov’s wrench, in this case. I thought about how the wrench would be about a lead-up to Ben’s backstory about how he can’t form meaningful connections since his mom’s death, but the film subverts this by never reintegrating it into the story. Nothing happened with the wrench because it was brought up twice in the movie and did not impact the later events.

The directors really just wanted to show you Ben’s wrench, I guess.

But this film still had its ups. I love how it could poke fun at itself by lampshading the transpiring events. When Ben is getting picked up by a helicopter for the second time and has them take him to the Sydney Opera House to meet Bea, he asks the pilot why they don’t just pick people up by boat. Of course, they need the helicopter so the lead can express his undying love to the other lead, but it was comical to see the movie acknowledging that this is a movie. A better question to ask would have been why they indulged his request.

And on the topic of helicopters, it made me roll my eyes at how often they were used as plot devices. The first time a helicopter was used was when Bea and Ben went overboard during a yacht trip in the Sydney Harbor, requiring one to be flown out. This is understandable, but the second time a helicopter was used was when Ben really, really wanted to confess his love to Bea. As with any reasonable man in love, he jumps off a cliff, risking drowning in the process because he’s supposed to be unable to swim, and ends up having to be rescued with a helicopter.

The lampshading doesn’t end there. During the wedding planning, Halle expressed how hectic the weekend was, especially since Bea and Ben hate each other. She said that she feels as though she is just a character in a play, a neat reference to the Bard. 

Speaking of Shakespeare, I also appreciated the homage to his work. The most overt references to the Bard happen during the scenes when Bea and Ben’s family and friends try to set them up together. Some of the character’s lines in the film are directly lifted from Shakespeare, especially during the scenes where people talk out loud to convince Bea and Ben to get together. 

There were also some references to lines about the play, like “A Skirmish of Wit” being the title of a movie poster, “Assume thy part in some disguise” appearing in the yacht scene, and “Men were deceivers ever” appearing on a book. And in case you missed it, the ending scene spells it out for you — “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Although it is not a faithful adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, the film still has moments where its wit shines through. I like how the film isn’t an accurate retelling of Shakespeare’s work because some of the original play’s contents, like how Claudio and Hero’s conflict stems from the fact that Hero may not be a virgin, did not age well. It has its memorable moments and certainly witty ones too, but some of the scenes just fall flat. To judge this for what it is — a rom-com — I still think it could have played its cards better. Overall, the film could have benefitted from a bolder approach and shaking up an ancient formula.