When the beauty of Sydney is up on the big screen and our local film industry is getting well-deserved work, you want to champion the end product. Sadly, if the Sydney premiere is anything to go by, the much-hyped Boxing Day release Anyone But You is more likely to be ripped to shreds by Australians than celebrated.
Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Anyone But You stars Sydney Sweeney (Euphoria, The White Lotus) and Glen Powell (Top Gun: Maverick, Hidden Figures) as Bea and Ben, two tanned-up singles who fake falling in love at a friend’s destination wedding when the event forces them back together after an ill-fated first date.
The film may do well overseas but falls apart for locals with our insider knowledge of geography.
If we’re understanding the plot correctly, the leads meet in America and then travel to Sydney for the wedding, but the café they first meet in is clearly in Barangaroo, so when we’re later told they’re off to the other side of the world, you’re thrown thinking, “Wait, weren’t you just there?”
Upon arrival, “Sydney airport” is not Sydney airport at all, at their Palm Beach accommodation only key cast are ever on the beach (no extras budget?) and the Blue Mountains is used as a nearby hiking destination. Where, by chance, koalas hang out in trees at hip height for you to say hello to (thanks for the loan, Taronga).
Director Will Gluck (Easy A, Peter Rabbit) and fellow writer Illana Wolpert (High School Music: The Series) accentuate the Australian setting by referencing our “crack-like” coffee, “unusual” power points and joke about seeing Tasmania over the horizon, but the laughs fall flat for viewers fatigued by the idea that setting a movie in Sydney means you have to reference all the “Sydney” things: can’t the location speak for itself?
Perhaps you could forgive the tropes if the love story was enough to distract you, but despite all the attention on Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell’s apparent chemistry, there’s none of it on screen. Bea and Ben read more like good mates who laugh at spiders and share bottles of Bondi Sands.
The true stars of the show are Aussie screen icon Bryan Brown and newcomer Joe Davidson, who lean into the absurdity of their lines and stereotyped characters as father-of the-bride and surfy-larrikin to deliver the only laugh-out-loud moments of the movie. Although fair warning, one of them does contribute to its MA15+ rating.
Anyone But You is a logical mess of a movie lacking both the “rom” and the “com” of a romantic comedy, but if there’s anything redeeming, it’s the way it points to our enduring desire to find true, meaningful love.
When they’re honest, both Bea and Ben recognise transactional relationships aren’t as satisfying as a genuine one that lasts and admit that fear is what often holds us back from connection.
Anyone But You may have been made in Australia but it’s definitely not for Australians, and like the play it’s inspired by, proves to be just that: much ado about nothing.
Anyone But You is in cinemas December 26th and comes with a content warning for nudity and themes about adult sexuality.
Feature image: supplied