Review: Much Ado About Anyone But You

I did not expect to be reviewing Anyone But You. It is a generic rom-com featuring a young lady, Sydney Sweeney, who I know only from my children, telling me about Euphoria. The trailers do not suggest much chemistry. This one feels like it’ll come and go pretty quickly.

Until I realized that the plot is about a man and woman who look like they hate each other, but only because they really like each other and are both afraid to admit it. Does this have Much Ado About Nothing vibes? Maybe I can pull some content from it.

Anyone But You Shakespeare - AI-generated Beatrice and Benedick

Until I realize that it is a deliberate modern adaptation! Very cool. It’s been a long time since we had something like this. A friend mentioned She’s The Man the other day, which got us talking about 10 Things I Hate About You. But those were twenty years ago. Time for something new? The IMDB page calls it a “loose adaptation.” The commercials don’t seem to mention it at all. Let’s see!

The characters are literally named directly from the play. Sydney Sweeney’s Bea is paired up with Glen Powell’s Ben. Later, we’ll meet her father, Leo, Ben’s best friend, Claudia (now cast female), and her partner, Halle (I guess they couldn’t do much with Hero). Meddler Pete (perhaps an appropriately-cast Pedro character would have been a little over the top?) will hang out around the edges of the story, and Jonathan will be about as close to a villain as we’re going to get. So far, so good. They didn’t have to do that. That’s the kind of thing I do when I play with this idea — start with the original names and then shorten them backward until you get a modern, acceptable equivalent. Maybe that’s what the writer did here?

The premise tracks pretty closely as well. We get the backstory that the original doesn’t give us – we see Bea and Ben have a lovely meet-cute that ends badly due to a misunderstanding, setting up the whole “I really liked him/her, and I’m not over how hurt I am, that it didn’t work out” dynamic. Sometime later, they are reunited when Ben’s friend Claudia announces her wedding to Halle, Bea’s sister. Even better, it’s a destination wedding in Australia.

Let the fireworks begin! They do what they can here with the banter back and forth – the writer is no Shakespeare. Every time B&B is together, they take cheap shots at each other in a wholly unrealistic way. If two friends-of-friends in real life acted like that, their friends would make it a point to keep them apart or at least tell them to shut up. But in our movie reality, they all get together and say, “Well, it’s clear that they both want to jump each other, so let’s set that up.”

It eventually goes off to be its own thing – Ben actually likes the Margaret character, and Jonathan is Bea’s ex-boyfriend. Bea and Ben quickly see through the “get them together” plan and decide to fake it to get everyone off their backs. So it’s got some amount of original content, which I can’t fault it for.

People who keep telling me that The Lion King is Hamlet need to watch a movie like this to see how you do an adaptation. On the one hand, this thing isn’t trying to be Shakespeare. The comedy is tired and obvious, going for the easy physical laugh whenever it’s available rather than trying to do it with dialogue. On the other, it literally sprinkles Shakespeare quotes – actually attributed to Shakespeare – throughout the movie. People walk by billboards with Shakespeare quotes. Again, didn’t have to do that.

So yes, we have an R-rated modern romantic comedy that’s banking mostly on “Sydney Sweeney in a bathing suit” popularity, but once you’re in your seat, it’s not afraid to say, “Ha! This is actually Shakespeare, psych!” I’m pleasantly impressed. Regular reviews talk about the chemistry (or lack of) between the stars and the lovely scenery of Australia. But I’m just looking for the Shakespeare references. I wish they leaned into it more heavily in the marketing, and more people might give it a chance. I wouldn’t have given it a second thought without the Shakespeare connection. And here we are.

Oh, Keanu…No….

I don’t know how I missed this back in May, but Keanu Reeves – Man of the Internet Hour – John Wick, “Neo”, “Ted Theodore Logan”, player with puppies, rider of subways, anonymous donator to children’s hospitals – is an admitted Oxfordian.

The man played Mercutio at 15, Don John at 29 and Hamlet at 31. My Own Private Idaho is an acknowledged retelling of Henry IV. But in his own words, he’s “always been an Edward de Vere” guy:

I always wanted to know — ever since I was growing up — who really wrote the plays of Shakespeare. So I wanna be there at that moment with “Shakespeare” — cause I don’t really think it was “Shakespeare.” I’m an Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford [guy]. So I’d like to be there in the 1600s “Shakespeare” writing Hamlet.

I guess he’s staying away from Macbeth, The Tempest and other later plays lest someone ask him how Oxford wrote those when he was dead.

Now I’m sad. Just goes to show that you can be a great guy – successful, even – and still not have any common sense.  As far as I’m concerned he’s flat Earth and anti-vaxx, too. What a shame.



Shakespeare Uncovered Returns This Friday

Who’s excited for the return of Shakespeare Uncovered?

WNET’s Shakespeare Uncovered returns to PBS for its third and final season on Friday, October 12!

The series, which covers the fascinating history behind Shakespeare’s greatest plays, will feature six installments hosted by celebrated names such as Helen Hunt, F. Murray Abraham, Romola Garai, Brian Cox, Simon Russell Beale, and Sir Antony Sher.

Each episode will tell the stories behind the stories of Shakespeare’s famous works and will investigate “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Merchant of Venice,” “Measure for Measure,” “Julius Caesar,” “The Winter’s Tale,” and “Richard III.” 

The show will air Fridays, October 12-26 on PBS (check local listings) and stream the following day at and on PBS apps.

Venn Shakespeare


Venn vs Euler Diagram
Venn <-> Euler

The most popular post I’ve ever made is the one depicting Shakespeare’s works as a Venn Diagram (although technically that shape is an Euler Diagram).  That post on Facebook has garnered over 2 million views at this point, and hundreds of comments. People have asked me if it is available as a poster (as far as I know it is not – I did not create the original image).

The problem is, I don’t like it.  Most of the comments are of the form “Why do you have play X in this category but not that one?” and “You forgot to put Y in the Z category” and so on.  The categories (Suicide, War, Romance, Supernatural) are, I think, too broad.  Does Romeo and Juliet count as war between the two families?  I would say no, but some people disagree.  How about Much Ado About Nothing? It starts with the men coming home from war.

So here’s what I propose.  Can we make a better one, or a set of better ones?  Something that more people can agree on? If we can make something that’s generally agreeable to a large audience I’ll be happy to make it available as a poster / stickers / t-shirt / etc…

I’ve been working with Bardfilm on some new categories.  The goal would be to find a set such that:

  • All plays are represented by at least one category.
  • Minimize the number of categories that have no entries.
  • No single category has too many entries.

What categories would you like to see?  “Supernatural” made our list as well.  I was thinking “Insanity” might be a good one. Bardfilm proposed “Fake Deaths” and “Cross-Dressing”.  If we can’t agree across all the categories we can look at doing one for Comedy, one for Tragedy, one for History, but I think those would end up looking a little sparse, and I’d feel bad about leaving out Romance.

What other ideas have you got for us? Tell us the category you think should be on our diagram, and which plays would be in it.

Reddit’s Favorite Shakespeare

Hello /r/Shakespeare!Anybody that knows me knows that when I see a post titled 1000 Most Mentioned Books on Reddit (or, really, anywhere), the first thing I’m going to do is search it to see where Shakespeare shows up.  Any guesses?

I’d love to say more about who made the list and why and how, but there doesn’t seem much to go on. The post, on Medium, was made by BookAdvice.  Have to look more into that, see what other cool lists they have.  All we know about the methodology is, from the summary, “Sorted based on the number of upvotes and the number of different users linking to them in post and comments.”  I suppose that’s got a certain chronological bias — a book that came out last year couldn’t possibly compete with those that have been around since before Reddit.  But it does say “most mentioned” and not “best” or “most loved” or anything like that, so I suppose it’s accurate to say that a book that has existed for ten years will typically be mentioned more than a book that’s only existed for one.

Much of the list is highly predictable, if you know anything about Reddit.  Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy all rank in the top ten.  I’m pleasantly surprised to see To Kill A Mockingbird in there, and The Count of Monte Cristo (though not so pleasantly Catcher in the Rye.  Really, reddit?)  Thrilled to see J.K. Rowling’s name not appear until well after the 250 mark.  Not that her work is bad, just that I’m tired of seeing such brand new books always top the lists of “all time classics”.

Ok, you want the data?  Drum roll, please. Presented in reverse order, from least to most mentioned, we have …

905. The Taming of the Shrew

754. The Tempest

674. Merchant of Venice

625. King Lear

578. Much Ado About Nothing

568. Othello

371. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (*)

295. Macbeth

237. Romeo and Juliet

and the most mentioned work of William Shakespeare on Reddit is……

144. Hamlet

What do we think, any surprises?  Surely not the great tragedies, I think those became self-fulfilling long long ago.  Is Romeo and Juliet popular because it’s so good, or is it considered so good because it’s popular?  Little surprised about Othello, that one doesn’t usually get much love, and I’m kind of wondering if they took the time to rule out references to the board game.

When I first made this list, searching for the word “Shakespeare”, I was surprised to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream not make the list.  I had to go back and double check.  It’s because they’ve got it listed by, and I’m not kidding, SparkNotes.  I wondered if there were many on the list marked this way, but it turns out that’s the only one.  Glad I checked, I almost missed it!

Anything you think should be on the list that’s not there?  Hey, wait … where’s Twelfth Night?