Review: Sun, Surf, and Sonnets: ‘Anyone But You’ Spins a Shakespearian Spat Down Under

Witty repartee and sexy chemistry spark like fireworks on bridal flowers in Anyone But You, a breezy rom-com down under starring Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney. Anyone But You is a sexy second-chance enemies-to-lovers fake dating contemporary romantic comedy novel come to life in the best ways possible.  It’s got beautiful people with fantastic chemistry, a fun location away from it all, and lots of humor. And oh, Shakespeare! Anyone But You is worth watching for the heart, the humor, and, of course, the happy ending. Powell and Sweeney are rom-com Sydney sweethearts that will have you singing Unwritten. 

The story of Anyone But You

Please note, there are spoilers ahead for Anyone But You.

A fun meet cute in a coffee shop and bathroom heroism starts off the story. Powell as Ben, and Sweeney as Bea, spend an unforgettable evening together where they make grilled cheese (a running gag through the story) and reveal deep secrets. The next morning, there’s a misunderstanding, and the two never see each other again until it turns out Ben’s found family (Alexandra Shipp via Gata) and Bea’s real-life sister (Hadley Robinson) are getting married.

To top things off, they’re getting married in a small, intimate wedding in Sydney, and everyone stays together in a family house. I will note, this is not a only one-bed romance. Ex’s pop up, there are hijinks with a spider, a koala, and a whole bunch of beautiful people doing things to avoid facing the truth of their feelings. It’s excellent, and the end is satisfying where spoiler alert (and not that Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade!) Bea and Ben end up together after a grand romantic gesture. 

Powell and Sweeney have palpable chemistry 

Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney are bona-fide rom-com stars. Not only do Powell and Sweeney have chemistry, but they’re fun to watch on screen together. There’s a lightness and breezyness to their interactions that makes the whole film go over smoothly. It looks like the actors are having a ton of fun on screen, and it’s infectious and gives the audience permission to have fun, too. 

Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell in Anyone But You. Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney in Anyone But You. Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Yes, some of the enemy bickering moments were cringy and over the top, but there was hardly a moment during this entire film that I wasn’t smiling. But a rom-com is a place for big, over-the-top exploration of tropes, and the over-the-top bickering fits that bill. Anyone But You was just fun and totally fulfilled the promise of transporting me away from real life for a few hours to this fun fantasy. 

Anyone But You has so many romance tropes

There are so many tropes in Anyone But You; it’s enough to keep the people at TVTropes busy for a long time. It’s clear that Ilana Wolpert and Will Gluck know the romance genre exceptionally well. There’s the most obvious trope – enemies to lovers. It’s right there in the name. The trope and how it plays out in the story has Much Ado About Nothing vibes but it also maps to The Taming of the Shrew spectacularly. Powell and Sweeney aren’t Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, but holy moly, they’re fun to watch. Anyone but You has big 10 Things I Hate About You and Deliver Us From Eva energy. 

An Age-Gap Trope

Anyone But You is no May December, but this romance has an age-gap aspect. Bea is law school age, while Ben has been out in the world longer. He’s got an established career already. The movie calls it out a few times and plays with the convention, but there’s never an actual power imbalance between the two. It’s no My Professor by R.S. Grey or Lessons in Sin by Pam Godwin. 

Bea and Ben are intellectually matched, and nothing in her career (or his!) is at risk because of the relationship. Bea’s career in life being undecided is how this age gap is highlighted – and indeed, one of the insults that sets off their enemies-to-lovers journey is Bea overhearing a too-cool to his friend Ben insulting her the day after they had a magical night.  

Interestingly, calling Powell old is a thing that has been done in other rom-coms he starred in. In Netflix’s Set it Up, where Powell starred opposite of Zoey Deutch, the script also made light of his age. In that scenario, his character’s age was closer to Deutch’s because they were both striving assistants at similar points in their careers. It’s a cute jibe without malice behind it that works for all of the tropes in this movie.

The Fake Dating Trope

Another huge romance trope in Anyone But You is the fake dating aspect of the story. It’s played with humor – but is never really a serious thing. There’s a lot of scheming by Bea and Ben’s friends to get them together for real, and lots of the endearing humor in the movie comes from that. This is not a high-stakes fake dating ploy like The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, but it still scratches that itch magnificently. 

Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney in Anyone But You. Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Dermot Mulroney’s transformation in Anyone But You

Of particular note in this film is the way Dermot Mulroney completely transforms from a leading man to a supporting actor. Mulroney is a romantic comedy legend. This transformation is intentional and showcases just how talented an actor Mulroney is, because although he’s getting older (like so many of us!), he still can rock the leading man kick-butt roles. His role in this movie speaks to how much range and talent he has. 

In Anyone But YouMulroney plays Leo, Bea’s slightly doddering older (but not that much older father.) He can’t dive. He fusses over Bea and has some serious Mark Linn-Baker vibes. Yes, it’s been 26 years since he was rocking it in My Best Friend’s Wedding with Julia Roberts, and almost 20 years since he played the escort Nick Mercer opposite Debra Messing in The Wedding Date. But Mulroney still has a phenomenal acting presence, and this role in Anyone But You was such a fun and odd departure.

The contrast between Leo and his role earlier this year in the Willa Holland-led film The Dirty South, where he’s the villain Jeb Roy, was jarring in the best way. And if you go further and think about Mulroney’s brief but memorable role in the recent MCU project Secret Invasion, where he brought it as an authoritative President Ritson, the dissimilitude is even more apparent and fun. 

Michelle Hurd’s transformation deserves praise, too

Michelle Hurd is often associated with playing tough-as-nails characters, so seeing her as the slightly softer but still cool mom Carol in Anyone But You was neat. She had such presence anytime she was on screen, and it made me want to see her as Raffi in a Star Trek: Picard spinoff so much more. Hurd is a leading actress, and I hope she gets her chance at Star Trek: Legacy. 

Anyone But You nails it with their main cast (obviously) and their supporting cast – Mulroney and Hurd are just an example of how the choices and add humor and layers to the story. 

For the love of romantic comedies

What’s really refreshing is that this is a movie made by people who clearly like and have an appreciation for rom-coms. For a genre that’s frequently looked down on, despite having some of the most iconic movies and serious box office chops, Anyone But You sticks out as a piece of work that’s made with care and not just a transparent cash grab or subtle attempt at making fun of fans of the genre. (Ahem, Jacob Elordi.) Anyone But You demonstrates a baseline respect for romantic comedy and is a stronger movie because of it. 

This respect shines through in the performances and every aspect of Anyone But You, and that helps make it such a fun movie. When I learned that Glen Powell used to read scripts for the legendary Lynda Obst, the producer responsible for How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Sleepless in Seattle I was not surprised, and it’s just more evidence to why this movie is carefully made. Romance fans (be it book or movies) are smart and passionate and can see through the bull.  They’re sophisticated, and the audience can tell when raunch is used instead of the build-up of a relationship. 

Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell in Anyone But You. Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.
Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell in Anyone But You. Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Final thoughts on Anyone But You

Anyone But You was such a cute watch, and I hope there are more rom-coms in the duo’s future. They have genuine chemistry, lots of fun Shakespearean sparring, and emotional vulnerability and growth. Anyone But You is made with care by people who love romantic comedies, and it comes through in a delightful movie that doesn’t reinvent the wheel but is full of fun, swoon-worthy moments and big dramatic gestures that we love to see. While I wait for the eagerly anticipated Glen Powell and Justin Hartley body swap movie, I’ll watch this movie and Set it Up again. 

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