A sparring couple of would-be lovers pretend to be the real deal in order to reap mutual benefits in Anyone But You, which opens in Prague cinemas this weekend after bowing stateside last month. This loose modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, bolstered by some charismatic leads and attractive destinations, doesn’t break any new rom-com ground but scores just about as high as possible within its formulaic trappings.
Directed by Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends with Benefits), Anyone But You stars Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell as Bea and Ben, who begin the film with a fun meet-cute inside a coffee house when Bea needs to use a customer-only restroom.
They share an intimate first date, but things quickly turn south with a pair of misunderstandings as Bea bolts in the morning and Ben, feeling hurt, bad-mouths her to friend Pete (GaTa) — a conversation, of course, that Bea overhears.
Not seeing each other again after that fateful first encounter, the leads are unexpectedly reunited as members of a wedding party when Pete’s sister Claudia (Alexandra Shipp) gets engaged to Bea’s sister Halle (Hadley Robinson). The marriage brings Bea and Ben to the beautiful shores of Sydney, Australia, with the two sparring from the initial plane ride forward.
With the bickering pair a direct threat to the festivities, the wedding guests devise a plan to put Bea and Ben back together. And with the presence of Ben ex Margaret (Charlee Fraser) and Bea’s ex Jonathan (Darren Barnet), the two decide to play along in order to stir some jealousy, and perhaps even rekindle romance with their old flames.
Like 10 Things I Hate About You, which was inspired by The Taming of the Shrew, Anyone But You‘s connections to Shakespeare are loose. Quotes from Much Ado About Nothing occasionally pop up on-screen (neatly integrated into the composition, e.g. as graffiti), the characters names are direct parallels, and the plot device of overheard conversions is regularly employed, with Pete and stepfather Roger (Bryan Brown) putting some amusing theatricality into their performance for Ben.
But beyond that, Anyone But You owes a lot more more to Hollywood romantic comedies than Shakespeare. That’s too bad, because Fraser and Barnet make for unusually sympathetic potential partners for the leads, and the story could have had a little more fun playing with audience expectations if we didn’t know exactly where it was going.
Within its formula, however, Anyone But You thrives, and Sweeney and Powell share some real on-screen chemistry and a surprising amount of skin. Location filming throughout New Wales from cinematographer Danny Ruhlmann is also often breathtaking, and makes memorable use of the landmark Sydney Opera House.
In addition to Sweeney and Powell’s leads, Anyone But You benefits from an excellent supporting cast, with Shipp and Robinson especially engaging as the couple whose romance should be the focus of the destination wedding. As the parents of the brides, Brown and Michelle Hurd, and Dermot Mulroney and Rachel Griffiths, also each get some choice moments throughout the story.
Packing the the appealing trappings from last year’s Ticket to Paradise – an exotic destination wedding and charismatic leads at each other’s throats – with some extra skin and vulgarity, Anyone But You may not venture into unfamiliar territory, but has just about everything you could want from an modern Hollywood rom-com.