Flix at :48: 'Anyone But You'
While meeting for lunch a few weeks ago, a friend and I talked about romantic comedy films and why they're no longer as popular as they were in the 1990s and early 2000s. Remember when Meg Ryan (Sleepless in Seattle, 1993); Julia Roberts (Notting Hill, 1999); and Sandra Bullock (Two Weeks Notice, 2002) could get crowds of people into movie theaters?
I said it's possible the lighthearted, unblemished sheen of this genre faded, because movie watchers of my generation developed a faded view of such happy love stories after watching the 21st century tragedies of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Southeast Asia tsunami of 2004 and the war in Iraq. But the romantic comedy genre could also have simply ran out of ideas.
Whatever the reason, the rated-R comedy Anyone But You premiered at the end of December 2023, and in the spirit of the approaching Valentine's Day, I watched this film in the movie theater. (And no, I did not watch this film between Christmas and New Year's Day when it was more freshly projected on movie screens.)
After a one-night stand turns bitter between a man and woman who then declare their dislike for each other, they're forced to be courteous (on the surface) when they find each other in the same spacious mansion for a destination wedding in Sydney, Australia. After a few scenes of petulant arguing, the sexy man and woman decide to pretend to be happy lovers for various ulterior reasons not fully explained.
Anyone But You is a hot, skin-laden, 21st century adaptation of the Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing with a number of quotes from the original play sprinkled throughout the film decorating scene transitions and introducing new chapters or plot developments. (These quotes range from spray-painted wall art to carved lines on the sandy surface of a beach.) That part of the film is fun, and some of the physical comedy and acrimonious jabs get some good laughs. But the moments of genuine love or vulnerability are so horribly empty of any spirit, passion, or commitment (in both the writing and the acting), I repeatedly furrowed my brow.
So many of the expected trappings of the romantic comedy are in this film. Every person is gorgeous and perfectly dressed, the wedding events are set in impossibly expensive places (like a grand yacht floating in the Sydney harbor), every shot is perpetually sunny and beautifully lit, and the scenes at meal time feature enormous spreads of food that could feed an entire football team.
All these trappings look attractive enough to be visually arresting (and I'm on board for them as part of this genre). But you know what this film doesn't have? Believable feelings! Without believable emotions and smart writing, I left the theater thinking this film is one of many uninspired attempts at romantic comedy magic (like What Happens Later from 2023, The Lost City from 2022, and The Wrong Missy from 2020.)
The only successfully memorable part of Anyone But You is the nudity (both male and female) and the gratuitous display of Glen Powell's (Top Gun: Maverick, 2022) and Sydney Sweeney's (Euphoria, 2019-2022) impressively toned bodies. So many times during this film, I thought, "Is this supposed to hypnotize everyone to vacation in pretty Australia now? Or are we all being subconsciously urged to hit the gym harder?"
I know my review for this one is negative, but I'm confident saying the lighthearted breezy films are just as important to watch as the more serious, heavy films are. That's why I think Anyone But You could have been so much better.