ABOUT A BOY really isn't. It's about two guys, one 38 (Hugh Grant) and one 12
(Nicholas Hoult), who share a problem. They're both loners. Will Freeman
(Grant) is happy to be an island. "I was the star of the 'Will Show,' and it
wasn't an ensemble piece," is how he describes himself in his frequent and witty
voice-over. Of course, underneath it all, he's anything but happy with his
blank existence. Living a strictly regimented life in his luxuriously bland
London flat, he literally "does nothing" for a living. The royalties from his
father's one hit song, the annoying but popular "Santa's Super Sleigh," provide
Will with a handsome income, although little meaning.
The other guy in the story, Marcus (Hoult), is the kid that everyone in school
loves to pick on. His hippie mother, Fiona (Toni Collette), who dresses like a
peasant in a Grimm Brothers' fairly tale, is depressed and suicidal. Marcus
spends his life in vain attempts to cheer her up and to be the type of son that
he thinks she wants. We learn of his concerns and issues through his narration.
The movie, which has decidedly touching and serious undercurrents, is played
more for the comedic than the dramatic.
Directed by Chris and Paul Weitz, ABOUT A BOY is another comedic treasure based
on a novel by Nick Hornby (HIGH FIDELITY). Unlike most comedies, which
frequently add up to little more than a series of humorous vignettes, ABOUT A
BOY tells a real story about genuine characters that you'll be rooting for, and
the acting is superlative all around.
Will, who thinks that a couple of weeks is too long for a relationship, hits
upon the idea of meeting women via single parent support groups. Not having a
real son, Will just invents one. The episodes at SPAT (Single Parents Alone
Together) play like the cancer support group scenes from THE FIGHT CLUB. (One
of the women at his first SPAT sessions wears a "Lorena Bobbitt for Surgeon
General" T-shirt.) One SPAT meeting generates a date with a woman who is a
friend of Marcus and Fiona. From there the story takes several turns that you
expect while surprising you on many others. The best of these twists happens
during a musical number in which you think you know how it will be resolved, but
you'll be wrong.
Eventually, the lovable characters in this charming story will find their
versions of happiness. They are so endearing that this is one of the few movies
that I almost wished were longer. I loved these new friends, and I was sorry to
see them go.
ABOUT A BOY runs 1:40. It is rated PG-13 for "brief strong language and some
thematic elements" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes