Moving Pictures
Dec 25, 2023, 06:27AM

Anyone But You is a Gem

Finally a movie about normal people with a shot at happiness set in the present.

Anyone but you trailer 101923 1 838e099c27694480867f07c1931d1003.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

This holiday season we’ve had movies about a nympho Frankenstein monster (Poor Things), an Oxford scholar Mr. Ripley-style serial killer (Saltburn), and an unhappy couple on vacation during an apocalypse (Leave the World Behind). All set on beautiful estates and luxurious vacation homes and ships.

Anyone But You: finally a movie about relatively normal people (circa 2023) with a shot at happiness, also set on beautiful estates and ships, this time in Sydney, where a group of Americans and Australians have assembled for a lesbian wedding between a blonde American gal and her bi-national, bi-racial bride. There are maybe three characters in the whole wedding party—and the movie—who aren’t gorgeous, but closer to average looking. Even the lesbian brides are both far more attractive than most brides, and both femmes wearing (white!—perhaps they are in lesbian parlance “pure”) nearly identical wedding dresses.

The brides aren’t the center of the story, though. Rather one bride’s older but as yet unmarried sister, Bea (Sydney Sweeney), and her former one-night stand, Ben (Glen Powell) are, coincidentally invited to travel across the globe to be guests at the same wedding. It’s a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, which in modern movies seems to require a title that rhymes with Taming of the Shrew, as do both 10 Things I Hate About You and Anyone But You.

The dialogue is definitely sub-Shakespearean. It’s Hallmark does Shakespeare. But the people and the settings are all so beautiful, and the physical comedy and the comedy of errors (who’s really whose lover or beloved and who’s a pretender?) hold your attention. The plot’s based on the speech from As You Like It (“All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely Players…”) as the lesbian couple and one set of parents plot to get Ben and Bea not to fall in love, but to become sexually involved for the weekend, to dissolve any animosity between them that may interfere with the nuptials. The other set of in-laws-to-be import Bea’s ex-beau as a wedding guest, hoping to get their older spinster daughter engaged. Ben and Bea retaliate by pretending to be a couple so they can squash these plots.

Along the way there’s much low and bawdy humor. At one point Ben and Bea get very physical while on a group hike up a mountain, to convince their friends that they’re an item. Bea puts her hand down the back of Ben’s shorts, and while fondling his buttocks seems to accidentally penetrate him with a digit. When she removes the offending hand she comes out with a giant Australian spider, which leads Ben, who’s brave and ultimately true of heart, but not overly bright, to pull off his clothes to see if his crevices are harboring any additional arachnids. Terrified of the creatures, Ben throws his clothes off the cliff where the group is admiring the panorama. And so the audience also gets a great view. Glen Powell, who plays Ben and looks like Chris Evans, the actor who plays Captain America, does have, as the Marvel joke goes, “America’s ass.” And America’s abs. And America’s pecs. He’s extremely pleasant to look at, if you like that sort of thing. (As is a Viking Australian surfer in the wedding party, who one character refers to as a B-version Hemsworth.) If you don’t care for that, not to worry, Bea (Sydney Sweeney, who somewhat resembles Amanda Seyfried) gets almost as naked.

Pretty sets, beautiful bodies and bawdy humor are diverting and perhaps welcome. This movie could’ve been good if the screenwriters were able to write dialogue that was, if not Shakespearean, at least memorable.


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