Anyone But You Review: A Perfect Revival of Cinematic Rom Coms
Disclaimer: This Anyone But You review contains plot spoilers.
Anyone But You, directed by Will Gluck (Easy A), is bringing the rom com back to the cinema where it belongs. The story is a modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
Modern literary adaptations became a cultural juggernaut from the mid 1990’s (Clueless – based on Jane Austen’s Emma) through the 2000’s (She’s The Man – based on William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night).
Many of these modern literary adaptations became beloved classics to the generation experiencing adolescence during this time period. Now, the modern literary adaptation has returned with a bang. Anyone But You is sexy, R-rated, and tailor-made for the aforementioned adolescent generation that is now grown up.
Director Will Gluck shared in an interview that he painstakingly read and re-read Much Ado About Nothing dozens of times while making Anyone But You. All of this was done in service of not only understanding source material, but to add Easter eggs. Anyone But You is home to numerous Shakespeare quotes in both dialogue and set dressing.
The first notable quote is “Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.” This actually comes from Romeo and Juliet. However, the numerous other quotes are from Much Ado About Nothing. Whether it’s a painting, the name of a boat, or a romantic declaration in wedding vows, Shakespeare fans will find much to love about Anyone But You.
Physical comedy has been heavily showcased in the film’s marketing. Sydney Sweeney has repeatedly shared how the spider she and Glen Powell filmed with actually bit her. The main trailer shows Powell stripping himself to be completely nude (complete with an uncensored view of him from behind).
Make no mistake, the physical comedy is excellent. There has been a considerable amount of work to choreograph and execute these elaborate sequences. Each one is funny to watch.
What makes the physical comedy especially sensational is how it fits into the larger narrative. Time and time again, the physical comedy is used to reveal something meaningful about the characters.
Bea wrestling with a hand dryer is more than an excuse to show Sweeney struggling with an inflated pair of jeans. It is a means of foreshadowing how Bea is struggling with decisions about what she wants from life. Ben being “hot girl fit” (a man with perfect abs and weak cardio) cracks the shell of his picture-perfect visage. It plays into the grand design of how he is a three-dimensional character with flaws, fears, and vulnerabilities.
Although rom com naysayers may claim the genre is superficial, the most compelling stories will emotionally imprint on fans. Julia Stiles tearfully reading a poem can pack just as much of a punch as any Oscar-winning performance.
Ben and Bea are characters who lash out at each other after accidentally hurting one another’s feelings. It takes time for them to peel back those layers of animosity and reach other’s hearts. Once we reach the third act, the slapstick comedy has settled down. Like a reliable family clock, we know that it’s time for the rift with the most serious tone that will inevitably lead to the reconciliation.
It should surprise no one that Sydney Sweeney delivers Bea’s tearful heartache with the utmost effectiveness. Yet it is Glen Powell whose performance proves particularly revelatory. Powell has already proven he can deliver outlandish comedy in prior jobs. The raw emotional vulnerability he infuses into Ben’s heartfelt declaration sets a new standard for male rom com leads.
Will Gluck is already well known for referencing Natasha Bedingfield. In Easy A, Emma Stone’s character Olive is prickly towards a card that plays “Pocketful of Sunshine” whenever opened. However, she eventually becomes hooked on the song until she plays it at full volume, singing along at the top of her lungs.
In Anyone But You, “Unwritten” is the song thrust into the spotlight. Bea overhears Ben listening to the song through his headphones on the plane. Later, he reveals his fear of flying while the pair are being rescued and lifted by a helicopter. Upon mentioning a routine he has to try to psychologically escape while on flights, she realises the significance of the song.
Bea begins to sing “Unwritten” to him, much to his confusion. Though he questions how she knows his “serenity song,” he reluctantly begins to sing along too. It’s a significant turning point in their relationship, that is equally heartfelt and hilarious. The song is repeatedly pulled back into focus for the remainder of the film, thus cementing the pop cultural entanglement of Will Gluck and Natasha Bedingfield.
To hear even more from Glen Powell, Sydney Sweeney, and Will Gluck, watch my full Anyone But You interview here:
Watch my full Anyone But You review here:
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