“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more. Men were deceivers ever—One foot in sea and one on shore, To one thing constant never.”
— William Shakespeare, “Much Ado About Nothing”
After seeking out Oscar-nominated films to watch, it’s something of a palate cleanser to watch a silly romantic comedy, and “Anyone But You” fits the bill.
In Telluride, the film is screening at the Nugget Theatre daily at 6 p.m. from Friday, Feb. 9, through Thursday, Feb 15.
The movie has been a surprising box office hit for Sony Pictures.
The film had a budget of $25 million but has grossed $152 million and is being re-released in an extended version for the Valentine’s Day weekend.
If I didn’t inform you that this film was based, ever so loosely, on “Much Ado About Nothing,” you’d likely never know.
There are a few hints, titles of books (“Men Are Deceivers Ever”) and signs that carry quotes from the play.
Our leads are the mismatched couple, Ben and Bea. The characters that disdain each other in the Shakespeare play are Benedick and Beatrice. The couple getting married in the play are Claudio and Hero, “Anyone But You” has Claudia and Halle.
Shakespeare famously played to the masses. His plays were staged for the general populace as well as well-educated Londoners. There was broad comedy and lots of innuendo, dancing, and mistaken identities — crowd-pleasing antics for the masses. “Anyone But You” follows suit with a gorgeous setting in Sydney, Australia, plenty of partial nudity, crass jokes, and completely implausible comedic moments.
Instead of Beatrice being a headstrong woman who doesn’t need a man, Sydney Sweeney (HBO’s “Euphoria”), plays Bea as a hapless romantic who’s dressed up as a bride for Halloween five times.
Benedict isn’t returning from the war, full of himself and his prowess. In this film, he’s a finance bro with commitment issues who embraces his (unprintable) lothario label.
Glen Powell plays a Goldman Sachs investment dude with a history of drug use and the ability to cook one item, a grilled cheese sandwich. Yet the couple meet cute and have great chemistry on a first date.
There are overheard conversations; one that creates the animosity between them, and a few that are meant to convince the mismatched couple to make up…or at least, hook up.
Nothing as romantic as true love for a film trying hard to earn its “R” rating. Sadly, the tone of the film shifts from corny to horny to schmaltzy, sometimes all in one scene. Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney are gorgeous to look at and seem to be having a fun time in their roles. They have great chemistry, and the supporting cast tries hard to support the trite plot.
Director Will Gluck, who co-wrote the screenplay with Ilana Wolpert, doesn’t seem to know what type of film he’s making: a slapstick comedy full of pratfalls and misunderstandings or a romantic comedy where the star-crossed lovers overcome obstacles to find true love. Is Brea an indecisive child of parents who she has allowed to dictate her life? Or a smart cookie that knows better than to fall for a superficial dude who’s merely “date fit”?
There are too many scenes that ring untrue and implausible. That’s fine in a fast-paced screwball comedy, but here are two beautiful actors trying to be both sincere and obtuse.
Many of the scenes feel as if the conclusion to a funny scenario was thought up; then the actors have to sell it. Destroy a wedding cake? Let’s have a funny dog trick. Rescue by helicopter? Invent a fear of flying. Wearing only underwear on a hike? There’s a spider in the shorts!
“Anyone But You” wants you to root for the couple but doesn’t give you much evidence that they’re anything but shallow, pretty, young adults.
Brea spends the duration of the film sporting fashionable pink manicures. Ben seems to find excuses to wear as little as possible. The characters don’t seem to deserve the love or trust of their families or friends. Fortunately, this is only a film and the light entertainment isn’t required to make sense.
“Anyone But You” is meant to entertain, and there are even some sweet moments. I prefer my Shakespeare with characters that may behave in outlandish fashion but with believable motivation, and oh, the lovely lyrical language of the bard.
Drinks With Films Rating: 2 (out of 5) glasses of champagne with a gorgeous view and a nagging sense of regret.