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Is 2024 Finally Bringing the Return of the Much Needed RomCom?

by Emily Duff and Alice Lambert

With 2023 bringing us No Hard Feelings, 2024 has quickly followed suit with Anyone But You. Both being daft, feel-good romance comedy movies, arguably the best of escapism cinema, the revival of the much loved ‘90s and noughties genre is much welcome - and needed. 



In a landscape of recessions and wars, the need for lighthearted entertainment is more evident than ever. With constant news of deaths and assaults inescapable through our phones, the return of RomComs feels more like a breath of fresh air. No post-movie analysis needed, no gut wrenching feeling to take home with you, just a fun story that helps you forget about how shit the world is for an hour and a half. 


After the concept of reality TV blew up to ridiculous proportions across the past couple of decades, audiences have finally grown sick of watching the wealthy and stupid. Don’t get me wrong, we still want to watch these, but in the form of fictional characters across the silver screen. 


In comes the pinnacle of easy-watching, classic literature turned RomCom adaptation. Think She’s The Man, 10 Things I Hate About You, Get Over It!, and so many more. 


Following on from No Hard Feelings, a story of a woman trying to save her childhood home by providing a romance education to a rich family’s kid which shows Jennifer Lawrence fighting teenagers whilst butt-naked (amongst other hilarious moments, see below), Anyone But You goes back to the genre’s roots by taking influence from Shakespeare. 



Taking inspiration from Much Ado About Nothing, the film routinely presents quotes from the text taking the form of everything from graffiti on walls to writing in the sand of an Australian beach. 


Whilst the aforementioned classic RomComs are much more subtle about their Shakespearean roots, as one of the first to return to this I think director Will Gluck probably just got excited after over a decade since his last. 


Gluck is the person behind Easy A, the 2010 film starring Emma Stone derived from The Scarlett Letter. As well as the movie that got ‘Pocketful of Sunshine’ stuck in all our heads, Guck also made Friends With Benefits starting Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake and his directorial debut Fired Up! which is, little known, a live-action adaptation of the classic Disney animation, The Aristocats



One call-back to the original, Much Ado About Nothing, that worked really well was within the script. Certain characters would randomly quote from the Shakespearean text followed by quip, “I just made it up.”


And, even less subtle than the quotes plastered across our screens via book titles and literal signposts, the credit montage shows Ben and Bea dancing in a stadium with a huge sign above them literally stating “Much Ado About Nothing.”


Despite this obviousness, it is an arguably loose adaptation of the text. 



Like the play, the film does mirror the story of Benedick and Beatrice (altered to Ben and Bea in Anyone But You), two contemporaries with an antagonistic relationship who spend the majority of their time arguing. 


Whilst the play gives little reason as to how this relationship came about, the film begins with a failed one-night stand between pair, who despite their mutual attraction, were misled into believing the other wasn’t interested in them. 


This follows to a reunion a year later where a mutual hatred emerges between Ben (Glen Powell) and Bea (Sydney Sweeney), culminating in multiple fights during a family wedding weekend, where the majority of the film is set. 


At this point the source material comes back into the film, as within both stories we see the friends and family of the main pair plot to trick Benedick/Ben and Beatrice/Bea that they are secretly in love with one another even though neither will admit to their feelings.


However, here is where we see a shift in the narrative in Anyone But You, as rather than their Shakespearean counterparts who believe in the rouse, Ben and Bea instead plot to fake a relationship in order to keep the peace during the wedding weekend. 


Whilst this takes us on a journey of hilarity not included in Much Ado About Nothing, both film and play conclude with the pair eventually entering into a relationship.



The other major plot line of the Shakespeare play which revolves around the equally important relationship of Claudius and Hero (Claudia and Halle in the film), is removed to make this adaption solely focused on one relationship. 


Furthermore, the character of Don Jon, (in the film Jonathan played by Darren Bennet) is also majorly modified, as although still acting as a foil for the relationship between Ben and Bea, his character never actively tries to sabotage the pair. 


Instead, he is Bea’s ex, and alongside a new character of Margaret, a former fling of Ben, they create a sort of ‘love square’ between the characters that is also central to the creation of the fake relationship. The rest of the film is not massively inspired by the Shakespeare text, but Anyone But You definitely has elements of the play with themes of trickery and deception central to its plot.

 

Known for their prime in the late ‘90s and early noughties, the genre’s revival implores proper modernising. 


As much as we love many of the classic RomComs, there’s still problematic issues from general perceptions of weight and body images, mainly directed at women, to queer representation and understanding. 


This is where I feel Anyone But You falls down most. 


Although gaining kudos for being centred around a gay, interracial couple, the body standard’s couldn’t be less diverse if they tried. 


Not only does everyone from the parents to the main characters fit a stereotypical standard of attractive bodies, but they are also regularly ’body checked’ from full frontal nudity to uncomfortably long sex scenes.  



Bending the perspective of queer characters role being snubbed to just the ‘gay best friend’ persona, it would have hit a new level of iconic by including a plus sized character who wasn’t just a comic relief.


Including any fat character would have been welcome, I had high hopes that a modern RomCom would see different bodies become relatable and real. 


And on the topic of relatable, the wealth of the families this film focuses on is far from attainable. 


This impacted the likability of the characters. Most RomComs earned their cult status by being people we had strong feelings about, whether hate of love. While the characters of Anyone But You weren’t despicable by any means, I was left thinking, “Why should I care?”



I wasn’t rooting for any of the couples, I wasn’t aspiring to be in their situations, I honestly had no strong feelings at all, and that’s a problem. 


The reason we all love 13 Going on 30 is because we either relate to the nostalgia of childhood or the yearning for adulthood, and many of us also dreamt of working for a magazine (dreams do come true) much like Jenna Rink. 


Or 10 Things I Hate About You, we all understand that brooding, despise the world outlook that Kat had or fantasised about grand gestures like the infamous Heath Ledger scene where his character, Patrick, sings ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” to an entire gym class. I could go on. 



On that note, music choices were a hit in Anyone But You


Much like Easy A’s use of ‘Pocketful of Sunshine,’ Anyone But You opts for a different Natasha Bedingfield track, ‘Unwritten.’ It adds a laugh whilst also being jammed in your head for the rest of the week post-watch. 


Alongside soundtrack, its marketing can also be praised. Anyone But You garnered attention owing to the fact it was studio-produced by Sony and theatrically released, similarly to No Hard Feeling in June. 


More recently, the RomCom genre has been developed through streaming platforms like Netflix, however this year a resurgence has begun to be seen in the genre in studios, potentially leading us back to the days of the 90s/00s and the mass production of rom-coms which hit the cinema screens first. 



Owing to this type of development, Anyone But You also involved a large marketing campaign behind the film to gain traction before its release.


With many interviews and media speculation surrounding its principal cast, the film also leaned into the comedic element of the genre when a spoof video by stars of The Curse, Emma Stone and Nathan Fielder was released, imitating the teaser trailer starring Sweeney and Powell. 


In the video, we see Stone and Fielder don the same outfits as the original and mimic the playful banter of Sweeney and Powell as they promote “my new tv show” (“my new film” in the original).


The video caused a reaction online, as fans speculated wether this was a genuine spoof by The Curse cast or a carefully planned stunt for both creations, with the “coincidental” appearance of Stone, who previously worked with Gluck on Easy A. Whichever it may be, the video meant Anyone But You secured its place as a talking point within the media leading up to its release in December.

 

The ongoing discussions surrounding Anyone But You also focused on the fashion we witnessed during the press tour, as its approach, echoing the Barbie tour, made a conscious decision to mirror the film and genre through fashion. 



Sweeney’s looks, dressed by longtime stylist Molly Dickinson, channeled old-hollywood glamour with an updated modern twist, overall creating a sophisticated wardrobe with a definite romantic feel. This particular selection has mirrored the genre of the film, but also updated Sweeney’s style to fit her role as a rom-com female lead, moving away from her more youthful styling for Euphoria, set within a high school.


The New York press tour saw a huge array of looks from Sweeney and Dickinson, with a showcase of 10 different high fashion looks over the two days, containing pieces from a multitude of designers. Ranging from polished two-piece suits to elegant dresses, Sweeney’s wardrobe contained features from Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Schiaparelli and Brunello Cucinelli, crowning with a powerhouse look in a sheer sequin custom Miu Miu that she debuted at the premiere of the film.


A personal favourite has to be the custom Balmain red dress Sweeney wore for her appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, featuring corset details, shoulder pads and rosette detailing. The dazzling look, emulating one of 2023’s favourite colour choices, coordinated Sweeney’s dress with a bold red lip, and matching bag and heels.



Furthermore, we saw Sweeney’s style being matched throughout the tour by Powell, who was dressed in Italian luxury house Brioni, with whom the actor has a long-standing collaboration with. His looks, like Sweeney, channeled a high level of masculine sophistication blended with modern elements, creating a cohesive wardrobe between the pair as they promoted the film.


With both the success of the marketing and fashion aspects of the press tour, alongside the ongoing positive reactions from fans to the film, the question on the resurgence of the RomCom genre is undoubtedly being raised. It is definitely one we would be keen to see come flying back with vengeance, hopefully taking note of a modern perspective on humanity. 

 

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