The Shakespeare Play That Makes Anyone But You Such a Charmer

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Whether you love it or hate it—or just hate that you might, kinda, maybe be chill with it—Will Gluck’s Anyone But You has found its audience. The Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell two-hander defied critics and connected with plenty of folks happy to bake in the Australian sun as the film’s stars swam around Port Jackson Bay and debated what it means to be “hot girl fit.” In theaters, the movie over-performed and grossed more than $200 million worldwide, and now on Netflix it’s soared to the top of the movie viewing chart around the world.

It turns out folks love an old-fashioned romantic comedy (surprise) when the leads are attractive and the jokes land. And even when some jokes do not land, the structure of Anyone But You’s story is sound. Indeed, its tale about two one-night stand exes who insist they hate each other ahead of spending a long wedding weekend together, is built on ancient foundations that are no less sturdy than the Bard himself. Yes, this is another sneaky William Shakespeare remake.

While we’d hesitate to say that Anyone But You is a complete modernization of a classic Shakespeare play—a la half of Julia Stiles’ cinematic output in the 1990s—it is most certainly drawing from the bedrock formula found in one play which has frequently been described as the original rom-com: Much Ado About Nothing. Shakespeare had of course written plenty of comedies with romantic plots before Much Ado About Nothing was first performed in 1598—including The Taming of the Shrew (which 10 Things I Hate About You is based on) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream—but there’s a certain simplicity to the storyline of Much Ado that it’s become a formula you still see Hollywood play around with. Clearly.

In that play, two highly opinionated and proudly arrogant individuals named Benedick and Beatrice speak loudly and often of their general displeasure for each other’s company. This occurs even though Lord Benedick is spending a leisurely week in the villa and home of Beatrice’s family, which is extended into a romantic revelry when the visit turns into a surprise wedding between Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, and Benedick’s best mate, Count Claudio. In the lead up to the wedding, the rest of their friends and family, including the wily Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, become so sick of Benedick and Beatrice’s misanthropy that they set the two up by pretending to be overheard by each party while discussing the other’s alleged attraction to the eavesdropper.

Even if you’ve never seen it performed on stage or screen—and there is a FABULOUS Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson version from the 1990s with Denzel Washington as Don Pedro—you already know how this story ends because you’ve seen it reimagined countless times before. Apparently so have the characters of Anyone But You since they act it out for Ben (Powell) and Bea (Sweeney), the latter of whom presumably has parents who also loved that 1993 movie when they named their daughter.

In the new frothy Gen-Z rom-com, Ben and Bea’s still smoldering chemistry, which has long since curdled due to a series of misunderstandings, is driving all their friends and family nuts during a wedding between Bea’s sister Halle (Hadley Robinson) and Ben’s BFF Claudia (Alexandra Shipp), the latter of whom also presumably comes from a family that appreciated Shakespeare’s 1990s cinematic renaissance. So the wedding’s other parties set a trap to ensnare the whiners’ hearts: Prospective in-laws Roger (Bryan Brown) and Pete (Ga Ta) attempt to deceive Ben with questionable authenticity while the brides-to-be more convincingly try the same on Bea.

Or as Pete goofily announces after Ben takes the bait, “Some cupids kill with arrows and some with traps.” If that sounded strangely poetic to you, it’s because it’s a line taken directly from Much Ado About Nothing, wherein the prospective bride-to-be Hero laughs after they have successfully captured the heart of their own Bea for her alleged mortal enemy.

So yes, Anyone But You is a very loose remake of one of Shakespeare’s great comedies, albeit one where Bea sees through the deception and yet still finds herself fooling her heart into falling for Ben while pretending to be a couple for the week.

It is also a reminder that be it 2024 or 1624, audiences will always enjoy stories in which pretty people argue, taunt, and then by the end, kiss. Anyone But You might add a few centuries’ worth of steaminess inflation to that formula, but it still works, and to hell what the critics say.

So the fact that, like Beatrice and her suitor in any telling, audiences have fallen for Anyone But You’s trap should be a good reminder to Hollywood that the rom-com is alive and well if studios actually invest in them. These don’t need to be Netflix or streaming service shovel content. In fact, it can even be an event on Netflix if you invest with enough care and concern so as to have charismatic actors really commit to sticking their hands in their pants in front of beautiful vistas and going through the paces of the Bard more than 400 years after Prince Pedro instructed, “Speak low if you speak love,” and Benedick admitted, “When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married!”

The post The Shakespeare Play That Makes Anyone But You Such a Charmer appeared first on Den of Geek.

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