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About A Boy

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: About A Boy

Starring: Hugh Grant, Toni Collette
Director: Chris Weitz
Rated: PG
RunTime: 100 Minutes
Release Date: May 2002
Genres: Comedy, Romance


*Also starring: Nicholas Hoult, Victoria Smurfit, Rachel Weisz, Isabel Brook



Review by Harvey Karten
3½ stars out of 4

Will (Hugh Grant) is a playboy living in central London, a guy who has done nothing with life except wow the gals. How did he get rich? His dad wrote a single Christmas song, played over and over on the radio and in supermarkets. Will lives on the royalties. As he states early on, "My father wrote a crappy song that happened to become a hit and spent his whole life trying to write a better one."

What a metaphor, not only for Will but for Hollywood! Often the major studios turn out crap and make out like bandits in the box office. This time, however, a big Hollywood enterprise has turned out something better. Much better. "About a Boy," though polished and commercial, is as sincere a film as any indie company could have turned out, and what's more, thanks to a witty, though unpretentious, script penned by Peter Hedges, Paul Weitz and Chris Weitz and based on Nick Hornby's novel, Universal Studios has made a genuine actor out of Hugh Grant. No more the hirsute, effete, stuttering, blinking, overly mannered boyish guy, albeit one who has lucked into classic works like "Maurice." This time the forty-year-old Grant shines; still in his signature role as a rich bachelor but one who is taught by a precocious, unhappy twelve year old boy how to be like a father.

We can't help envying Will, however, when we see him, presumably happy and living on his own in a contemporary town house complete with a floor-to-ceiling aquarium, a huge-screen TV, and pretty-much his pick of young women of various types, but all beautiful. Is anything missing? Will doesn't think so and maybe he's unfortunate in discovering a major gap in his life through his meeting with this pre-teen. After all, you don't know you're unhappy until you've experienced a life-style that's different, one that gives you an epiphany and makes you regret time wasted. That stroke of luck comes when he joins a group of divorced parents in an organization called SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together), believing that the women would be more desperate than most. But when one of the members, Suzie, introduces him to a friend, Fiona (Toni Collette) a chemically depressed woman with a nerdy kid, Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), who is the butt of his classmates' practical jokes his life changes.

At first Marcus, dependent on Will as he is obviously needing a father since his mom is suicidal and clueless about the needs of kids his age, goes to Will's home regularly to hang out, seeking advice. The tables are turned when Will realizes that while he'd make a lousy husband he just may have it in him to be a father.

A story that could be milked for unctuousness and sitcom sentimentality instead, under Paul and Chris Weitz's direction turns out to be an honest, earthy look at the emptiness at the center of a man's existence. They say that a neurotic begins to recover only when he realizes how emotionally deprived he really is. Will always knew himself to be shallow happy to spend his days watching inane TV, feeding his fish and buying things. But until his relationship with Marcus played by Nicholas Holt as though he were a real human being and not some sort of Teddy bear born from the imagination of a screenwriting fabulist makes him realize deep down that (as the Talmud and the Frankenstein monster and lots of others have said), it is no good for a man to be alone.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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