Direction: Will Gluck
Screenplay: Will Gluck, Ilana Wolpert
Cast: Glen Powell, Sydney Sweeney, Alexandra Shipp,
Dermot Mulroney, Rachel Griffiths, Bryan Brown
Length: 103 minutes
For the record, my expectations upon entering the cinema (Kino Kristiansand) for my fifth and final press screening for Unikum (for this film review you’re reading) weren’t high. Romcoms made by major Hollywood studios (this one comes courtesy of Columbia, a Sony company) to receive theatrical releases were becoming increasingly rare, not only because the streaming services have taken over, but because they’re a notoriously difficult genre to get right, primarily because every effort must look (for want of a better term) effortless. Results can therefore be hit-or-miss, without much middle ground to barter with. To avoid a box office flop, therefore, a risk averse film business tends to invest elsewhere.
No matter how good the script is, the romcom lives or dies by the chemistry of its leading actors too and your critic is pleased to report that this magic does, in fact, still exist. Based on the shenanigans of Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, ‘Anyone But You’ charts the miscommunications of Ben (Glen Powell) and Bea (Sydney Sweeney) from their one night stand in the United States to their one week (unexpected) holiday in Australia, where most of the action unfolds. It just so happens that the excellent pairing of Powell and Sweeney recalls the brilliant bantering between Clooney and Roberts in ‘Ticket to Paradise’ and Bullock and Reynolds in ‘The Proposal’.
Under the Columbia brand, Sony have clearly spent money on this, evident not only by the on location shooting around major landmarks but also in its cast of note. Dermot Mulroney and Rachel Griffiths support with gravitas (and share the silvery screen for the first time since romcom classic ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ over 25 years ago). Everyone is clearly having so much fun here that its charms are somewhat impossible to resist, nay criticise; the Fall semester has either been longer than I thought and I’m wasting too much time and energy attempting to overanalyse what need not be or… [loses train of thought]. Also, 20 minutes had elapsed before I started making any notes forcing me to recall most of the plot from memory, which, mercifully, wasn’t one so complicated as to bore in conversation.
Ben and Bea ‘meet cute’ in a city coffee chop which progresses to a successful first date (night). However, the next morning, Bea leaves Ben before he awakes leaving the latter to assume she wasn’t interested before the former could return to explain herself. Despite each having the perfect first date, neither has the chance to vocalise this to the other. In their conversations with friends, Bea explains that Ben gave the perfect first impression while Ben portrays Bea as just another meaningless conquest (which she, unfortunately, overhears). While their comedic timing is flawless, their change of heart occurs at the worst possible moment. Will lightning strike twice? What do you think? Well, six months later…
Recall the upper class romcom fare in the glossy oeuvre of Nora Ephron (‘When Harry Met Sally…’) and Nancy Myers (‘Something’s Gotta Give’) by the plush surroundings of privilege but only at face value. While a run time of 100 minutes limits the ability of the supporting ensemble to deliver performances outside of one-note characteristics (although each deliver beets that shine), the story ultimately rests on the dynamic between the two leading players. On the periphery the acting is more linear (to a sketch) which focuses our attention on those at the centre and keeps the writing tight throughout. Mutual friends bring Ben and Bea back together more than once, a running gag as opposed to the plot twist at the climax of ‘Crazy Stupid Love’. Even though the warring couple trope isn’t knew, ‘Anyone But You’ is anything but boring.
Despite the now-resolved Actors’ and Writers’ Guild of America strikes which shutdown Hollywood for months, 2023 has proven to be a great year for the mid-budget adult romcom. ‘Anyone But You’ makes for a more than worthy addition to ‘Bottoms’, ‘Joy Ride’, ‘No Hard Feelings’ and ‘The Blackening’, all of which were warmly embraced by either critics or audiences. If lightning strikes twice (or thrice, you decide), sometimes it’s both and in this roll of the dice, we have a contender. An escapist fantasy, the festive season is the perfect time for romcoms like these to excel. In fact, by swapping wintry North America for summertime Australia, you may find the near-total absence of Christmas cliché in this entry rather more refreshing by now. But that’s just me.
‘Anyone But You’ is in cinemas now: