Before I get into my thoughts, I want everyone to know that this movie deserves two out of five stars. I must also preface that I love romantic comedies; it’s not like I am a film snob who will only find productions like “Lawrence of Arabia” palatable. No, I actually prefer when a movie is goofy, gushy and more than slightly unrealistic because it allows me to escape from a life that’s sufficiently serious.
I actually decided to watch “Anyone But You” because of another romantic comedy. After seeing Glen Powell — who would become the starring male lead of “Anyone But You,” — in the film “Set It Up,” I had to watch the newest movie he was working on. Not to mention, my interest was doubly piqued when he and his co-lead Sydney Sweeney pretended to have a real-life affair to promote the film. Unfortunately, that publicity stunt was ten times more interesting than the actual film.
To clarify, the film’s failings are not due to any fault in the plot itself. The movie starts with Powell’s character, Ben, helping Sweeney’s character, Bea, secure a coffee shop bathroom key by pretending to be her husband. The two strangers get along so well that Bea ends up spending the night at Ben’s. However, she immediately leaves in the morning. She doesn’t get the chance to explain herself because she catches Ben self-deprecatingly badmouthing her to his friend Pete.
This leaves a misunderstanding between the two — one that keeps their relationship bitter months later when they are both invited to a house in Australia for a wedding coincidentally between Bea’s sister and Pete’s sister. The misunderstanding doesn’t clear up until a few mishaps, a fake relationship and a near-death experience later. Even then, the two manage to have yet another misunderstanding before they make up for good on the wedding day at the movie’s end.
To reiterate, I did not give the movie such a low star rating for the mere predictability of its narrative. I wasn’t too put off by the use of the “only one bed” trope. Neither was I annoyed when the two planned a fake relationship (see “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”). I saw it coming when Bea’s ex Jonathan and Ben’s ex Margaret hooked up with each other, but this was also water under the bridge.
In fact, some parts of the plot even earned the movie stars. Take the first scene. I mean, who hasn’t dreamed of a meet-cute in a coffee shop? Not only did the scene have a nice setting, but it was also extremely relatable thanks to the writing. You bet I mouthed, “Girl, me too,” when Bea was overthinking the meaning behind Ben’s kindness in the bathroom. It hit painfully yet entertainingly close-to-home when she internally debated if Ben was just being nice or if his act of kindness could be the spark that ignites a new romantic relationship. Ditto for when she happens to get her pants wet with sink water, and when she explains to Ben that the reason she was there in the first place was that she was too scared to ask where the bathroom was at work.
Truthfully, I was ready to be a fan of both the movie’s writing and Bea after such a strong start. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I couldn’t root for either character. I mean, Ben’s most vulnerable moment as a character involves holding up a wrench to tell Bea how his deceased mother said everything can be fixed. Truthfully, all he had to do to demonstrate vulnerability was talk with her about his deceased mother, and doing so would have gotten the point across just fine. Adding a trite metaphor to the mix was cheesy overkill that may have even inappropriately overshadowed the power of loss.
As for Bea, her decision to leave her own sister’s wedding reception because she just feels too uncomfortable about Ben is cringe-worthy. She does ask for permission, but it still feels like an incredibly selfish thing to do to someone, let alone your sibling. Even worse, she decides to run all the way to the Sydney Opera House to have her sulky moment. When Ben chases her to the landmark to finally profess his love, I couldn’t help but think, “But what about the wedding?” They couldn’t have made up the day before? The day after? The two already ruined the wedding cake a couple of hours before, and now they have to make the evening about them. The pair just come across as self-centered and tone-deaf, making it difficult to root for them.
However, I do want to give an honorable mention to the casting department for choosing the right actors for Ben and Bea’s ex Jonathan, who was played by Darren Barnet. Something that can make or break a cinematic love triangle for me is the hotness ratio between the main character’s love interest and the competitor, and Powell was clearly more physically attractive than Barnet. With that said, I find it difficult to agree with Bea’s reason for choosing Ben over Jonathan. Bea ultimately justifies dumping Jonathan because they never fought, which might be fair because some conflict is certainly healthy for a relationship, but I can’t for the life of me condone when Ben says, “I love the way we fight” in his closing monologue. Because, no, constant bickering should not be romanticized. Trust me.
Honestly, though, my biggest grievance with this movie isn’t the annoyance it constantly made me feel. It is what the movie didn’t make me feel.
Throughout the whole thing, I was never truly excited. I didn’t once hold my breath, as I did with the acting and chemistry of the leads in “The Hating Game.” I was never on the edge of my seat, like I was when the main character was about to get taken advantage of in “She’s All That.” I never laughed like I did during the uncomfortable stripper scene in “The Proposal.” I never even cried, and I was most surely sobbing when Sandra Bullock thought she lost Keanu Reeves in “The Lake House.”
“Anyone But You” simply failed to stir some strong emotion in me when I was watching it. And that is quite ironic for a movie belonging to a genre devoted to the most stirring emotion of all.