Anyone But You: Sigh no more, it's the return of the modern Shakespeare adaptation

Anyone But You: Sigh no more, it’s the return of the modern Shakespeare adaptation

Major spoilers for Anyone But You ahead.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that moviegoers will always be in search of a good romantic comedy. And yes, that includes me. I can quote You’ve Got Mail and 10 Things I Hate About You with my eyes closed. While romantic comedies were labeled “chick flicks” and “guilty pleasures” in the past, it seems that we’ve now come around to embracing our love of them.

Despite this, the presence of romantic comedies has steadily declined with the death of mid-budget movies. We simply don’t get enough fun, not too expensive movies anymore and rom-coms end up being silently released on streaming services. Many people even say they don’t make good romantic comedies anymore. I fully disagree! Lately, there have been many great recently released romantic comedies that fans herald as “the rom-com revival”. Some examples that come to mind are Rye Lane (2023), To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018), The Broken Hearts Gallery (2020), and Palm Springs (2020). 2024 brings us Will Gluck’s Anyone But You, a movie I wasn’t initially sold on seeing. Don’t get me wrong, I love romantic comedies, but I’ve been burnt with Netflix’s offerings in the past and I do have some standards. The trailer wasn’t the best, so I was thinking about skipping this until I came across a Tiktok that revealed that Anyone But You was a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. That caught my attention.

If there’s any niche film category I have a fondness for, it’s the literary classics turned into modern-day adaptations. They were everywhere in the 90s and 2000s, with some of my favorites making me go back and read the classics they were based off of. Most people have probably even seen a lot of these without even realizing they’re an adaptation. Did you know that Clueless is based on Jane Austen’s Emma? These movies are a great way to get people interested in classics that they might not have wanted to read. Classics can be seen as intimidating and boring and hard to get through. These adaptations make age-old characters seem relatable to us, the modern audience, and even offer up fresh takes and twists that get us invested in their stories. I remember getting interested in reading The Taming of the Shrew after I fell in love with 10 Things I Hate About You, and while I was disappointed with the original play’s ending, this kickstarted my journey into reading more of Shakespeare’s work.

Like I said, Anyone But You being a modern adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing is not a new concept. I actually wish that they had marketed it as such, because I saw so many people on Twitter and Tiktok become interested in it because of that fact. People miss that kind of movie! We haven’t seen it in a good while. It’s not even director Will Gluck’s first stab at the concept. His first movie, Easy A (2010)- is a beloved 2000s classic that has us all singing Natasha Bedingfield’s Pocketful of Sunshine and looking for a good slutty corset top to sew a red A onto. And in case you didn’t know, Easy A is an adaptation of the book Olive reads for class: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. With these two movies, I think that Will Gluck has shown a talent for picking out what makes these stories universal and relatable to modern audiences, while still keeping the core of the classic it is based on.

In Anyone But You, we lay our scene not in Messina, but in Boston, where law student Bea (played by Sydney Sweeney) is in a rush to use the bathroom in a coffee shop. It’s early days, and she wants to impress the people around her. Unfortunately, the bathroom key is purchase-only. This is where we meet Ben, (played by Glen Powell) who comes to Bea’s rescue by pretending to be her husband who is already at the front of the line.

In classic meet-cute fashion, the two of them hit it off, and—after a narrowly averted incident with Bea’s wet jeans—end up spending the day and night together. The two end up at Ben’s apartment, sharing laughs, barely shared secrets, and a grilled cheese, before falling asleep in each other’s arms. It can only go up from here, right? Well, no! The movie’s only in its first act. Bea wakes up after a night together, and in a moment of panic, ends up walking out on Ben before he wakes up. While on the way out, she realizes how meaningful their encounter was, and ends up going back to Ben’s apartment. Just in time to hear Ben—hurt by Bea’s decision to leave—tell his best friend, Pete (played by GaTa) that their one-night stand meant nothing to him. Angry and hurt, Bea leaves, expecting never to see Ben again.

A fact people often skip over in Much Ado About Nothing is the fact that Shakespeare implies that Beatrice and Benedick once had a relationship, but it ended badly. You can see this in Act 2, Scene 1 after Don Pedro teases Beatrice about having lost the heart of Benedick, she reveals “he lent it me awhile”. There’s always something fun about the lovers-to-exes-to-lovers again storyline. When done well, it becomes a story of growth and two people’s willingness to try again, despite the hurt in their past.

The two cross paths again when they bump into each other at a bar. Bea’s sister, Halle has started dating Pete’s sister, Claudia, and is really hitting it off with her. In contrast to their blooming romance, Bea and Ben trade icy jabs about who truly was at fault for how their one-night stand ended. Something that I’ve loved about this movie is the fact they kept the secondary characters commenting on Bea and Ben’s relationship, which is something that is a big part of the fun of the play. Halle, Claudia, Pete, and. later on, their families end up meddling in their relationship, in a way that feels like a fun nod to the original play.

Halle and Claudia’s relationship quickly turns into an engagement, and the two girls start planning for a wedding in Sydney, Australia. And of course, our two leads are part of their wedding party. Bea’s life after that day in the bar hasn’t exactly gone to plan. She’s dropped out of law school, and broken up with her fiance, and as she discovers on the day of the flight, she’s on the same plane as Ben. Plane hijinks ensue. This is also when the movie drops its iconic needle drop for the first time: as Ben sleeps on the plane, his headphones are blasting Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten—much to Bea’s confusion and amusement. It’s a great song, and seeing people’s Tiktoks dancing to it as they leave the movie theater always makes me smile.

In Sydney, things get even more tense. Bea and Ben make the preparations for Claudia and Halle’s wedding even more stressful. Their bickering and desire to get back at each other quickly makes everyone uncomfortable, and after a fiery incident during a game of charades, the wedding party starts to scheme about getting Bea and Ben back together in order to distract them. Like in the play, they set up incidents for the two to “accidentally” overhear them talking about the other. GaTa and Bryan Brown as Pete and Roger are the best part of these scenes; their comedic chemistry is great and always gets a laugh out of me. However, unlike the play, Bea and Ben see right through their plans, and the two decide to fake a date to get their families off their backs. While they might be fooled, not everything goes to plan during the two’s fake relationship. Exes appear, spiders crawl around, and they even take a dip in the Sydney Harbor and get rescued by Marine Rescue. Natasha Bedingfield’s Unwritten even makes a reappearance in a very sweet scene where Bea distracts Ben from his fear of heights by singing his “serenity song”. All the while, the two get closer and closer to truly understanding each other, and why their first night ended the way it did and what it means for them to move forward. Both Ben and Bea have their reasons for being closed off, and Anyone But You truly shines as a rom-com when it lets its leads be unexpectedly honest and vulnerable with each other. Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell have great emotional and comedic scenes in this that sold me on them as a couple.

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