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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

Panethiere Updated Anyone but You Web Graphic Color

‘Anyone but You’: Are rom-coms back?

“Anyone but You” achieves what it sets out to achieve — it just doesn’t set out to achieve all that much. It’s a good romantic comedy, very romantic and pretty comedic.

I can’t decide whether Glen Powell or Sydney Sweeney was the more charismatic lead, which is a good sign. Part of the supporting cast, GaTa as Powell’s friend and Bryan Brown as GaTa’s step-father, also excelled. Brown’s performance was solid comic acting, and GaTa’s performance was so bad it was good. The rest, though, faltered. The movie would’ve benefited from a handful of reliable character actors.

The script is effective. There are some rough edges in the dialogue, but — as is often the case — it’s hard to tell what’s actually clunky: the director Will Gluck’s script or the supporting cast’s acting. “Anyone but You” patterns itself after Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” Gluck’s Ben, played by Glen Powell, is Shakespeare’s Benedick, and Bea, played by Syndey Sweeney, is Beatrice. It’s always nice to see the canon of Shakespeare-inspired rom-coms expanded, movies like “10 Things I Hate About You” and “She’s the Man.” It’s nice to see another movie like Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” and Disney’s “The Lion King,” which English teachers screen in class in an attempt to prove that “Shakespeare is actually cool” and that “Shakespeare is actually fun.”

The film is visually nondescript. Sometimes it seems like a ad, and sometimes its shots look like stock photos. Sometimes its scenes feel like commercials for prescription medicine, and sometimes its sets resemble Airbnb rentals. I get that it’s a mass market movie — Gluck’s not trying to be Wes Anderson here — but we deserve to expect style from everything we watch, even our rom-coms, and “Anyone but You” is styleless.

Still, “Anyone but You” is exciting. I went to a Tuesday night showing in my hometown with my friends, thinking we’d get the theater to ourselves, but the house was actually crowded — for a work night, at least. This movie is getting people to theaters.

Sweeney’s success with “Anyone but You” runs parallel to Jacob Elordi’s success in “Saltburn” this year. “Euphoria,” it seems, was the perfect incubator for its young talent. Perhaps “Euphoria” is for Gen Z what “Freaks and Geeks” — which launched the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segel — was for millennials.

“Euphoria’s” graduates have a knack for balancing artistic and commercial success, balancing independent and franchise projects. Hunter Schafer models for Prada, and she also starred in a “Hunger Games” movie. Zendaya is about to star in a Luca Guadagnino film about tennis, and she’s also the female lead in “Dune.”

Sweeney, though, seems even more destined for mainstream stardom than her peers. In addition to this crowd-pleasing rom-com, take “Madame Web” — an addition to Marvel’s Spiderman franchise — which comes out in three weeks and features Sweeney alongside star Dakota Johnson.

Elordi, on the other hand, appears to be striving for a lifetime in art cinema. “Saltburn” hasn’t even been out for three months and it’s already infamous. He’s also slated to star in Paul Schrader’s film “Oh, Canada” and to portray Frankenstein’s monster in Guillermo del Toro’s “Frankenstein” alongside Mia Goth and Oscar Isaac. Still, he balances his status as our indie-darling/it-boy with his position as the current pop heartthrob.

It’s fascinating to see Sweeney and Elordi, who both started out making schlock, make their ways in the world — both of them onward to continued success, but via two very different paths. “Anyone but You” was a fun movie, and Sweeney’s will be a fun career to watch.