‘Anyone But You’ Review: Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell Rom-Com Is Overstuffed

The R-rated enemies-to-lovers story lacks narrative tension

Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell in Anyone But You
Sony Pictures

Destination weddings are more suited for disaster movies than rom-coms. In real life, I’m the frugal Grinch that resists spending gobs of money to witness the wedding of two spendthrift souls, however exotic the locale. Add to that the natural strains of a major life decision played out in public. Plus the stressors of air travel in the time of sleep-deprived pilots, drunken handsy seat mates, ornery support animals, panic attacks (mine!) and unexplained delays.

A good time was had by all? Not bloody likely, Mate.

In Will Gluck’s overstuffed “Anyone But You,” that destination is summery Sydney, Australia. Look: it’s the opera house, sandy beaches, a koala bear and a really horrifying spider! The racy rom-com centers on an affluent wedding between two lovely, compatible, delightful women, Claudia (Alexandra Shipp) and Halle (Hadley Robinson).

It’s all very modern, celebratory and sporadically raunchy – except for two particular guests. Halle’s sister Bea (“Euphoria” siren Sydney Sweeney) and Claudia’s good friend Ben (squinty, six-packed Glen Powell) take the transatlantic plunge. But the pair have history, bitter history.

The circle dance of discord and desire between Ben and Bea form the story’s core – in a movie where it seems that just about everybody has been doing a lot of core work at the gym. The attractive leads conform to the enemies to lovers romance trope. This tension animates “Pride and Prejudice,” “The Proposal” and Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” which forms a very loose roadmap, hold the wit, for “Anyone But You.”

Naturally, the pair meets cute if uncomfortably. One thing leads to another, and another, and his apartment. They spark and connect and cuddle. They look good together. But they’re both gun-shy.

When morning comes Bea makes an Irish exit. Then she reconsiders, returns and overhears Ben saying snarky things about her to his best friend, Claudia’s brother Pete (Ga Ta). Ben’s just saving face – but it stings Bea like a slap in the cheeks. We’ve entered the enemies phase. Having shown their vulnerabilities and seemingly been rejected, they are now both defensive to the max.  

From there, they reunite on the plane to Sydney. They will try their best not to screw up their near and dears’ wedding. But, true to the classic enemies to lovers formula, they just can’t keep out of each other’s way for the common good.

Their mutual bad vibes and runaway hormones create a domino effect, playing with the heads of the two sets of parents fronting the extravagant nuptials. Halle’s parents Leo (Dermot Mulroney) and Innie (Rachel Griffiths) and those of Claudia, Roger (Bryan Brown) and Carol (Michelle Hurd) are trying, too hard, to ensure that everything goes smoothly. They courteously want the brides to remain the focus of the Aussie adventure. But what’s the fun in that?

Ironically, all four mature actors, who could each lead a movie of their own, aren’t given fully-realized characters. Mulroney, best known for the classic rom-com “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” is reduced to a soft-boiled doofus Dad. A scene where the pale papa strips to his bathing suit and belly flops in the pool, again and again, until Ben teaches him how to dive is far from the best use of the still-dashing Mulroney.

“Breaker Morant’s” manly Brown loiters around doing dad things, and being endlessly, almost exhaustingly, supportive. Griffiths is almost unrecognizable as the moderately hysterical mother of the bride. Hurd fares a little better, but overall this generation of actors don’t get to bring their full comic potential – and sexiness – into the mix. It would have helped. What about a little cross flirting?

As for the leads, one thing that can be said in their defense is that they look great in bathing suits. Powell (“Top Gun: Maverick”) is cut within an inch of his life as if with a set of Ginsu knives. The self-conscious Sweeney, with her fishbowl eyes, come-hither lips and big curves on a tiny frame, is a generic sex bomb.

On the enemies to lovers scale, “Anyone But You” most closely resembles “Ticket to Paradise,” which reunited George Clooney and Julia Roberts. No one would mistake Powell and Sweeney for those charismatic A-listers. Yet both destination wedding tales share the strain of trying too hard to make the audience believe the frenemies hate each other, while their ultimate reunion is so inevitable there’s no narrative tension. At the very least, it’s not Shakespeare. It’s not even “10 Things I Hate About You.”

“Anyone But You” opens exclusively in theaters on Dec. 22

Comments

One response to “‘Anyone But You’ Review: Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell Rom-Com Is Overstuffed”

  1. cadavra Avatar
    cadavra

    The fact that the trailer itself contains not one but two dick injuries immediately marks this as one to skip.

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