OPINION: Anyone But You loves Sydney, but it misunderstands Australia.

Anyone But You became so much more than just a movie. 

It's impossible to separate the film from the scandal that enveloped the filming in late-2022, as rumours ran wild that the romantic leads, Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, had become a couple in real life, which was a tad awkward for their partners, current fiancé Jonathan Davino and now-ex-girlfriend Gigi Paris.

Of course, it was all a load of nonsense. But it sure did give the movie a PR boost

Anyone But You will premiere on Boxing Day and I was one of the lucky people to go to the premiere. 

As the biggest rom-com fan, I really wanted to love this movie. After all, we need a good rom-com with the glory days of You've Got Mail and Notting Hill now a distant memory. 

The story had all the makings of a stellar romantic comedy: Bea (Sweeney) and Ben (Powell) have a chance encounter at a coffee shop that ends in them spending the night together, but things end awkwardly prompting the two to never speak again. Well, until Bea's sister is getting married to Ben's best friend in Australia, forcing the two back together so they agree to a pact to pretend to be a couple to appease their friends and family. 

Watch the trailer for Anyone But You. Post continues after video.

Video via Sony Pictures. 

Most of the film takes place in Sydney, as the city is director and co-writer Will Gluck's favourite destination. 

"I kind of fell in love with Australia, as did my family," Gluck said at the Sydney premiere. "I wanted Anyone But You to be my love letter to Sydney – one of the most beautiful, welcoming, glorious places in the world." 

This makes a lot of sense. Anyone But You is a love letter to Sydney, but the movie celebrates the city with an overly sentimental and generalist approach. It's the kind of love letter sent to someone you've only adored from afar, and never gotten to know beyond the surface.

This still makes for a fun experience, especially if you live in Sydney or aspire to visit there one day. 

The problem with this movie is that it misunderstands Australians — for the most part, the film does not represent us in any meaningful or accurate way.

Instead, we are largely stuck with a host of cartoonish Australian characters. 

Joe Davidson plays uber-Aussie lad Beau, a walking/talking Australian stereotype, who speaks only in meaningless slang and has a tendency to whip out his penis to strangers. No, I'm not kidding. 

The other Australian character Margaret (played by model Charlee Fraser) is supposed to be representative of a more cultured Aussie, but she still speaks a dialect that feels alien to how any Australians converse today, with the young woman dropping insults like 'drongo' as if she's Alf Stewart in the '90s. 


I will note the exception of Bryan Brown, who was the only likeable Australian character, and even though he was as Aussie as they come, he pulled it off with a quirky charisma. 

But the rest of the Australian characters are jokes, they're punchlines, and they're caricatures based on Crocodile Dundee and The Simpsons. But instead of 'shrimp on the barbie' and 'knifey spoony', the modern update offers persistent jokes about how Australians are obsessed with coffee. 

We get it, we're annoying. We know! 

Then there's a scene with a huntsman spider. Oh, and there's a scene where the whole group turns around to be faced by a koala sitting in a tree at eye-level. Straya, folks! 

Aside from the stereotyping, even some of the American characters are messy. I've never seen rom-com king Dermot Mulroney look so lost in a part as he is cast as Bea's oddly senile father Leo. 

The actor is only 60 years old but the way he contorted his face in this movie made him appear like he was on the brink of death. Equally confusing was Rachel Griffiths as Bea's mother Innie, with one of Australia's most enduring acting talents given nothing to do in this movie — and she's speaking in an American accent. 

But don't worry, there are plenty of good parts. American rapper and actor, GaTa, as Ben's friend Pete had the funniest lines in the film, but I wish he got to speak more than a couple of times in every scene. 

The chemistry between the leads Sweeney and Powell was insatiable. These two make movie magic together, as they exchange insults and banter with organic ease.


Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell. Image: Sony Pictures. 

Glen was a standout, essentially playing a similar character to his God-tier Netflix rom-com, Set It Up, but in holiday mode. 

He was charismatic, sarcastic, and grumpy — everything a rom-com leading man should be. 

Sydney offered a sultry (and sometimes sleepy) leading lady. The two would sizzle together in an erotic thriller or even, a spy action movie. 


Some jokes that hit were genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. But it was the bigger jokes that landed, which often relied on more of a slapstick, physical comedic setup, like someone being literally slapped, or getting naked. 

Anyone But You reminded me of Julia Roberts and George Clooney's 2022 Ticket To Paradise which had all the ingredients of a perfect rom-com— two of Hollywood's biggest stars set in picturesque Bali — but the writing at times felt generic. 

Let it be known that Anyone But You is not as bad as Ticket To Paradise

Despite some faults, it's an enjoyable, easy-to-watch movie because of its cast who are clearly two of Hollywood's biggest stars in the making. Plus the setting and scenery shots on Anyone But You were truly stunning — the film made me want to visit Sydney even though I... live in Sydney. 

But this is a different kind of Sydney than what locals know; it's Sydney through an American lens.

It's all white sandy beaches without the crowds (on a warm day? Never!), hikes through the bush which end overlooking the ocean (and a koala waiting for you), and of course, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House appear seemingly every 10 minutes. 

It's an alluring tourist campaign for Sydney — the place — but it's another story for the people.

Anyone But You will draw tourists to Australia, but they might not want to speak to any of the locals. A bunch of bloody drongos, mate!

Feature image: Sony Pictures.