It took me a long time to warm up to Hugh Grant, but with "About a Boy,"
he's finally won me over. From start to finish, Grant is letter perfect
in a role that would have been ruined by one misstep. What a treat it is
to watch such a gifted performer work. Based on the international
best-selling book by "High Fidelity" author "Nick Hornby, "About a Boy"
is a delightful little comedy with heart. Not Hollywood greeting-card
heart, but the real kind.
Grant plays Will, a self-satisfied 38-year-old Londoner who is shallow
and proud of it. He lives off the royalties of the Christmas classic,
"Santa's Super Sleigh," written by his late father, and spends his time
shopping for clothes, CDs, DVDs and trendy gadgets, tending to his Audi
Coupe and trolling for women.
A one-night-stand with a single mother sends Will to a single parents
support group in search of fresh flesh. Posing as the single father of a
fictitious 2-year-old, he joins S.P.A.T. (Single Parents, Alone
Together) and gets a date with Susie (Victoria Smurfit), only to have
her bring along Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), the 12-year-old latchkey son of
Susie's best friend Fiona (Toni Collette).
When they take the kid home, they find the depressed Fiona in the middle
of a suicide attempt. Between dealing with his whacked out mother and
school bullies, Marcus is coiled up tighter than a "Fear Factor"
contestant before a food challenge. He turns to Will, the closest thing
he has to a father figure, for help. Even after discovering the truth
about Will's scam, he keeps coming around. Gradually, and totally
against Will's wishes, the two become friends.
Matters become even more complicated when Will meets and falls in love
with Rachel (Rachel Weisz), who has a 12-year-old son of her own. She
assumes that Marcus is Will's son and the guys play along. But once the
relationship grows more serious, Will wonders if he can undo the
deception without losing Rachel. Further, he wonders why a defiantly
one-dimensional man is getting wrapped up with three-dimensional people
in the first place.
Directed by Paul and Chris Weitz ("American Pie") from a screenplay by
the Weitzes and Peter Hedges, the film moves smoothly back and forth
between comedy and drama, thanks in large part to the remarkably adroit
performance by Grant. Nicholas Hoult is nearly as impressive, conveying
all the discomfort that comes with being 12 without ever getting maudlin
or cute. Smurfit, Collette and Weisz all do fine work as well, but this
funny, warm, low-key movie belongs to the inspired team of Hoult and
Grant. As the summer mega-blockbusters storm into theaters, small
treasures like "About a Boy" offer a most welcome alternative to all the
Copyright © 2002 Edward Johnson-Ott