Trope-packed rom-com Anyone But You has its heart in the right place, but it won’t make you swoon

If you haven’t heard, Anyone But You is a rare theatre-released rom-com, that has become a sleeper hit since its December 22 opening. To date, its box office take is over $170M globally. 

And perhaps most notably, this success has not been driven by old fogies in their mid-to-late (or late) 40s like me, but by Gen Z. (Or is it Gen Y? Which ones are Millennials again??)

I was curious, so I headed to the theatre on a sunny Saturday morning to catch the 10 o’clock show. (Yes, that’s a.m. They give a discount before noon.)

This meant that It was hard for me to gauge whether the film was hitting the mark with the hip young audience, since there was no one else there.

But, sitting alone allowed me to focus fully on the insipidly-named film, to determine:

Does it merit the hype?

The answer is, in short, not really.

The premise

The movie is about Bea (Sydney Sweeney) and Ben (Glen Powell) who cute-meet at a coffee shop, and very quickly hit it off. But just as quickly, misunderstandings arise, and they fall out. But they meet again when his best friend’s sister and her sister start dating, and later become engaged.

Then they’re thrown together during their friend/sister’s intimate destination wedding in Sydney, Australia.

All the wedding guests are housed together, including Bea and Ben’s exes, so there’s plenty of opportunity for fun and hijinks (and romance???).

Things to like

The film has a few things going for it.

Most critically, its leads.

Sweeney and Powell are charming and likable, and appear to be having a blast. I was impressed that these unknowns managed to carry the film so confidently! (But, I’ve since learned they’re not really unknowns, just unknown to me.)

Another plus, the other Sydney – the city – shines, showcased by numerous panning shots of the sparkling harbour. (I lived there for a few months, once upon a time, and it’s truly a spectacular location.)

Also, the film is kinda funny. Don’t expect a laugh a minute, but I certainly chuckled a few times.

And finally, the end credits are worth sticking around for – it’s a montage of the cast singing “Unwritten” by Natasha Beddington in different locations (they must have gotten so sick of that song). This strong closing serves to blur some of the movie’s flaws.

Flaws that I will itemize now.

Flaw #1: Shakespeare? Are you sure?

This movie claims to be based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Now, I’ve seen Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 adaptation of that play several times (and one of those times was immediately after watching Anyone But You, to fact check), and I’d say the movie has very little in common with the play.

It does quote the play a couple of times, and the leads have the same names, but don’t be fooled! The only real similarity is that they both (and very briefly in the movie), feature a couple being tricked into falling in love – though the outcomes are very different.

The problem is, Bea and Ben are already ‘fake dating’, so the plot is all muddied up.

The claim of a connection was clearly just for marketing purposes. After all, aren’t all the best romances based on the Bard, Jane Austen, or the venerable Nicholas Sparks?

Flaw #2: Too much hate

This movie establishes its initial conflict right away – both leads draw incorrect conclusions, leading them to ‘hate’ each other.

But the way they immediately and unrelentingly argue with each other is absurd. Ok, we get it, they really really really hate each other! It’s like the filmmakers didn’t want us to somehow miss the fact that this is a ‘hate to love’ romance.

Don’t worry, we didn’t.

And while there’s a reason given for why they hate each other, it’s a very weak one. So they seem a bit like babies, unable to just talk it out. Why wouldn’t they at some point pause for a Sydney minute, and actually articulate why they’re angry?

Ah, but they finally do…

Flaw #3: The conflict is resolved prematurely

So, Bea falls off a boat into the harbour, and Ben (not a strong swimmer) heroically dives in to save her (he’s a strong diver), and the pair are inexplicably rescued by helicopter (which sets up probably the funniest line in the movie, when Ben is later rescued by helicopter once again, and asks the rescue worker why they don’t just use a boat.)

The pair end up clutching a large buoy, and have a little heart to heart about their misunderstandings, clearing the air, and confessing that they like each other.

So I was left thinking, Ok. They’ve both admitted to liking each other, and they now understand their misunderstandings…

What’s the problem, exactly?

Couldn’t they just make a date to meet at Starbucks when they get back to the US, then roll credits??

But no, the movie just carries on.

I thought that maybe, just maybe, they’d delve a little bit into why Bea is so very skittish and flakey and quick to run away from her feelings.

But they never really do.

Flaw #4: The wrong character makes the final grand gesture

There’s the obligatory grand gesture at the end, when Ben again jumps into the harbour and somehow convinces Search & Rescue to drop him at the Opera House, where he knows Bea is waiting.

This is, of course, totally absurd and uncalled for (it isn’t like she’s on her way to the airport and they’ll never see each other again). And, because it’s so silly and unnecessary, it isn’t really swoon-worthy at all.

Besides, I think the ending would have worked better if Bea had been the one doing the chasing. After all:

  • She’s the one who doesn’t appear all that interested – unlike Ben, who seems bummed on the buoy and later on the beach when she doesn’t seem ‘on board’ with giving their love a chance
  • She’s the one who says ‘everything I do just feels like a mistake’ right after sleeping with him
  • She’s the one who tells Ben’s ex she should try to get back together with him

Basically, she’s the one doing the running, while he’s just waiting for her to figure out what she wants.

So, she’s the one who needs to demonstrate her love and show how she’s changed. She’s the one who needs to make the grand gesture. 

Flaw #5: Excesses of silliness

Seems like lately romcoms really emphasize the ‘com’. I think it’s in an effort to appeal to a wider market — so men can just call them comedies, and happily accompany their female partners to the theatre, without appearing ‘whipped’ (Gen Z must have a better term for this).

So, in this film:

  • Bea accidentally dry humps a sleeping Ben on a plane
  • A woman whips off her dress to put out a fire
  • A big ol’ Australian spider prompts our hero to whip off everything
  • Bea falls overboard after ‘Titanic-ing’ with Ben

Now, I’m not opposed to some silliness, and some of these scenes did make me giggle.

But there’s a cost. Too much silly can throw the romance off course.

Why? Because you need a bit of verisimilitude for a romance to be believable. If the situation doesn’t seem real, then the humans in it won’t seem real, and the emotions they’re supposed to be feeling won’t seem real.

So, maybe just make the dialogue wittier, instead of including all this ridiculousness? After all, Shakespeare rarely relied on pratfalls.

Flaw #6: Weak supporting characters

The film showcased no fewer than 10 supporting actors (you might even recognize a couple of them) without a standout in the bunch.

But I don’t blame the actors — they just weren’t given much to work with.

Yes, the plot required many characters, but the filmmakers would have done better to choose two or three to focus on, make them quirky and memorable, and downplay the rest.

Is it romantic?

They got things partly right by having a likable couple. That’s why the movie doesn’t sink completely.


I can buy that they should be friends. And I can buy that they should try dating.

But I don’t for a minute buy that they’re in love.

In fact, they give off much more of a ‘just friends’ vibe, to me.

Overall, this movie needed more genuine conflict, resolved less prematurely, and a bit less silliness. Then it might just have been worthy of some swooning.

In conclusion

Am I being too severe?


The filmmakers certainly pulled out all the stops. It’s based on Shakespeare, features trendy tropes like hate to love and fake dating, offers a wedding at an exotic location, includes a grand romantic gesture, and don’t forget the silliness factor.

It’s a paint by numbers approach – or maybe splatter art. Throw everything at the viewer, and maybe something will stick.

But, simply checking off boxes will never result in an effective romance. You need to feel it.

I am glad this romance is doing well at the box office, and I hope it portends good things for the genre. But, after watching this movie, I do wonder if the younger viewers out there may not know what they’re missing.

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