Anyone But You brings winking genre references, f-bombs and nudity

Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell can’t help fall in love in this romcom bringing sexy back, from the director of Easy A. Katie Parker checks it out.

For those of us who keep an eye on such things, it feels as though Anyone But You has been in production for years if not decades. In an era where movies tend to come and go with barely a whisper – or even a full day on the homepage of whatever streaming site they will then immediately disappear into – the new rom-com, starring Hollywood upcomers Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, has had an unusually robust press cycle.

From the blatantly contrived rumours of onset romance between the leads, to the endless paparazzi photos of a scantily clad Sweeney filming scenes in the Sydney surf, to earnest promises from cast and crew that the R-rated film would single-handedly revive the raunchy romcoms of yesteryear, Anyone But You’s hype machine has been in motion for some time – so how does the final product stack up?

Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, the hard-worn if generally fool-proof premise centres on the relationship between Bea (Sweeney) and Ben (Powell), two hot youngish things who, after spending a brief but intense night together, become bitter enemies after a bungled morning-after. Flash forward two years and her sister is marrying his friend in sunny Australia – and as members of the wedding party, Bea and Ben must spend a weekend together without derailing the whole event.

So begins a weekend of mishaps, misunderstandings and gentle manipulation as Ben’s family and friends try and get the pair together, Bea’s parents try to reunite her with her ex-fiancé, and the pair decide to pretend to be a couple to get everyone off their backs (and possibly encourage a reunion between Ben and his Australian ex-girlfriend, who is also there for some reason).

Like its retro press cycle, Anyone But You is at pains to evoke an earlier mode of cinema, one that many of us would be very happy to see return. With its contemporary take on Shakespeare, winking genre references, and infrequent f-bombs and nudity, there are certainly many of the ingredients of an early 2000s romcom in the mix – yet unfortunately the whole thing just ends up a bit half-baked.

At times approaching raunchy but never truly committing to it, the jokes are for the most part tame and strangely subdued, and without any big laughs to coast off the admirably game and good-natured cast are left to flounder one too many times. Bea and Ben’s love/hate relationship meanwhile lacks depth and direction, and it’s hard to get truly invested in the ebb and flow of their feelings towards each other. With both characters fairly thinly drawn (their respective backstories comprise of his dead mother giving him a wrench and her flip-flopping about whether she wants to finish law school) there’s not a ton to suggest they’re really meant to be together – and, for all the hoohaa about Sweeney and Powell’s off-screen shenanigans, the pair aren’t exactly going to be setting loins alight with their chemistry.

Having said that, the cast is easily the best thing Anyone But You has going for it. Powell and Sweeney, though not entirely compelling as will-they-won’t-they lovers are an affable (and incredibly good-looking) pair, with Powell in particular delivering an effervescence that keeps the whole thing afloat. The supporting cast too is likeable – the best moments going to Lil Dicky’s hype man GaTa and various Australians doing exaggerated parodies of the down-under spirit – and a sweet (if unearned) behind-the-scenes sing-along end credits sequence suggests that much fun and affection did indeed go into Anyone But You’s production.

From director Will Gluck (who arguably capped off the era he is now trying to revive with the excellent 2010 high school comedy Easy A), who co-wrote the screenplay with Ilana Wolpert, Anyone But You is far from awful – but instead is decidedly mid, lacking much of the heart and humour 2023’s No Hard Feelings which made a similar attempt to bring the R-rated rom-com back into fashion.

Still, you could do much worse – and with a charming cast, brief runtime and the kind of antipodean in-jokes that we Southern Hemisphere hermits crave, Anyone But You is a fun, diverting and pleasantly unchallenging watch – so long as you manage your expectations.