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 ABOUT A BOY (2002) 

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CAST
Hugh Grant
Nicholas Hoult
Toni Collette
Rachel Weisz
Isabel Brook
Jonathan Franklin
John Kamal

DIRECTED BY
Chris & Paul Weitz
PURCHASE


DVD




Soundtrack




Novel


Time: 100 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Official Website
Genre: Comedy/Romance

Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.


Only Hugh Grant could make a character with no ambitions and fewer morals into someone charming, funny and utterly human. He gets an enormous amount of help from an astonishing young actor who shows how one can rise above the tortures of childhood, even if one can't fully escape them. This story is about the relationship between these two lost souls, looking for meaning in their sorry lives and for someone they can count on to catch them when they fail. Thanks to novelist Nick Hornby's sardonic take on life, the film is uplifting without being overly sentimental. He proves his theory – that no man is an island – with wit, intelligence and honesty. It may be true to some extent, but it's the interaction with others that makes life worth living – and occasionally downright annoying.

Grant plays Will Freeman, an avowed bachelor with nothing to show for his life but a nice apartment, great clothes and lots of stuff. Since he doesn't have to work – he lives off the royalties of a popular Christmas song his father wrote – he's left to live his life on his own terms. Unfortunately for him, the best he can come up with is watching TV game shows and having meaningless sex. As he gets older and his friends move on to more adult matters like parenthood, Will is left on the sidelines of life, seemingly happy to go through every day without emotional turmoil. His latest coup to stay unattached is to date single mothers, woman equally afraid of commitment, though for vastly different reasons. His plan works pretty well until encounters Marcus (Hoult), an usual 12-year-old boy and his unstable, yet loving mother. A twist of hard reality brings him into their lives and Marcus refuses to let him escape.

The only time Marcus is free from the stress of his home life and the horrors he encounters every moment in school are the afternoons he spends with Will. He initially traps Will into friendship, but Will is soon enjoying the time they spend together, taking an active interest in Marcus's world. Of course, once you open the door to life, it's impossible to shut it again. Marcus's positive take on life, despite all the adversity thrown his way, causes Will to rethink his lonely life and take a real chance on love. Unfortunately, a lifetime of lying dies hard, causing Will to land in the doghouse with Marcus and potential girlfriend Rachel (Weisz). Only this time he discovers he actually cares, about not only the direction of his own life, but Marcus's as well. He confronts his own worst fears about himself and convinces Fiona (Collette), Marcus's mother, to do the same. In the end, everyone winds up with a soft place to fall.


"Once you open your door to one person anyone can come in."

Though Grant may be playing yet another cad, ABOUT A BOY gives him one of the greatest roles of his career. If you think this is just one more film in a string a romantic comedies, you'd be mistaken. He may wind up with the girl in the end, but the main relationship here is between Grant and the boy next door. How the unwanted friendship of a clever, upbeat, occasionally annoying boy, changes the life of this supposedly content bachelor. Grant takes this seemingly shallow creep and builds him into a whole human being in the course of 2 hours. It's a wonderfully deep and touching performance that I think will hit a nerve in many people, both male and female, who can relate to wanting the protection of solitude from the sea of chaos that constantly brews around us. What he learns is that life eventually becomes messy whether you want it to or not. It's the scenes where he's forced to realize how unqualified he is to deal with important life issues that break your heart. It's a painful transition from boy to man brought about with great humor and emotion.

His co-star on the road to maturity is brought brilliantly to life by Nicholas Hoult. Marcus is and isn't your typical 12-year-old boy. He's desperate to fit in, but can't help being an outcast. Hoult is at once a total dork and immensely enchanting. He makes Grant work to be the most interesting person on screen. You feel his angst, confusion and hope in every breath he takes. His role is key to the success of this story and he nails it. He needs to have a strong personality to ground the wackiness of the tale. The direction gives both of them the same level of importance, as one would not have found his true self without the other. The dual voice over brings us an amusing and honest look into their thoughts, making their characters deeper than they otherwise would have been. It's a technique often misused in films to make the characters seem quirky and clever, but here it gives the story just the right touch. The different camera angles also lends style to the look and feel of the film without being obtrusive or obvious.

Weisz and Collette aren't really given anything new to do, though they complement the fellows quite nicely. It's a shame to see their talent wasted, but since this is a film about male bonding one can forgive the oversight. The Weitz's still have a lot to learn about creating great female characters, but overall this is a nice step up the cinema chain for the directors of AMERICAN PIE. This is a film that has a worthwhile message, yet isn't obscenely obvious in the telling. There's something to be said for the restraint of the British. If you're looking for something different than the usual summer action fare, this is a film you should seek out. Grant proves he doesn't need a pretty girl to be worth watching and the story shows a slice of life we can all relate to.


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