What kind of person flies from Boston to Sydney for a long weekend? The rich, hot idiots that make up the ensemble of Anyone But You, that’s who. These are the kind of people who would get on a 16-hour flight without knowing where they’re sleeping, or volunteer to swim out to a boat in the bay without being able to swim, or fly their daughter’s ex out to Australia halfway through the weekend as a surprise. There are leaps of logic aplenty, but does any of that really matter? No. Love matters.
We open on Bea (Sydney Sweeney), a law student begging to use the bathroom at a café, lecturing a barista about a law allowing her to use the bathroom without buying anything. Any flash of Liz Lemon-esque curmudgeon behavior quickly melts away after she meets Ben (Glen Powell), who has a vague finance job and pretends to be her husband, buying her a drink so she can pee. The mutual attraction is clear; Sweeney and Powell really do have chemistry that’s nearly as good as the tabloids would have us believe. They spend a romantic afternoon and evening together, falling asleep on his couch.
If you’ve seen the trailer for Anyone But You (or if you’ve read Much Ado About Nothing, which Anyone But You is not only based on but repeatedly references) you already know more or less what is going to happen here. A misunderstanding the next morning turns them against each other, only for them to reunite much later at an intimate family wedding in Australia. They behave incredibly obnoxiously about sleeping next to each other one night, so their family decides to try to trick them into thinking that they still have feelings for each other, and to get them to act on those feelings. Bea and Ben, using their combined brain power, realize their family is messing with them, and decide to pretend they’re dating to be left alone. Convenient, too, is that both of their exes are at the wedding, so Bea and Ben can make them jealous.
No one goes into a movie like Anyone But You for realism, nor should they. The film is made as fun escapism, and it succeeds at that. It’s aspirational, but not in the Gossip Girl way of name-dropping designers and outwardly flexing their wealth. Anyone But You is more saying, “Imagine how your family would be, in this wonderful situation?”
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the entire cast looks as good as the subtropical setting. Though hardly laugh-out-loud funny, the gags—at least the few that weren’t already included in the trailer—are amusing enough, and the supporting actors are all pretty game. As brides-to-be, Halle (Hadley Robinson) and Claudia (Alexandra Shipp) congeal well through their scheming. Ben’s friend Pete (a standout GaTa) gets both some great solo moments and some scheming of his own with father of a bride Roger (Bryan Brown); unfortunate, then, that he’s the only character without a love interest.
Really, though, this is Sweeney and Powell’s movie, and they occupy all of the attention. Powell continues his leading man campaign, functioning well as the guy you know on paper would be an utter disaster to date but you can’t help but be drawn to him anyway. And there are few faces in contemporary Hollywood that communicate total emotional devastation as well as Sweeney’s; her comedy chops are mostly competent, but she shines most in the “boy loses girl” segment of the rom-com plot.
Even if incredibly formulaic, director Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends With Benefits) is never winking. Yes, the plot of Anyone But You hits exactly every beat when you think it would, grand romantic gestures and all. But it is content—thrilled, in fact—to be a boilerplate rom-com. It doesn’t seek to get ahead of any criticism leveled at it. Formulas exist for a reason, and they can still be executed well. Sparks fly, even if there aren’t enough of them to give the film a jolt of electricity. Anyone But You doesn’t reinvent any wheels, but the wheels will get you to your destination on time.