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About a Boy (2002)

December 20, 2009

8/10 Lonely Islands

The single best thing Hugh Grant has ever done for the world.

About a Boy is about a shallow guy who doesn’t have a job, proudly shuts himself off from the outside world at all costs, has no ambition in life and one day has the brilliant idea to start dating single mothers because it puts him on a pedestal of sorts. Along the way he happens to befriend Marcus, the awkward, moppet son of one of the said single mothers, he helps the kid out and tries to make him as cool as possible so everyone else at school will stop picking on him, the kid in turn helps his new mentor stop being such a loner, and considering how screwed up their lives were to begin with, it ends up beautiful little thing they have going on.

For those of you out there who’ve never seen or heard of this movie, I can probably guess what’s going through your head, “It’s a Hugh Grant movie. Hugh Grant is lame.” It was the same conclusion I jumped to and nine times out of ten, that’s a pretty safe leap to make. But surprisingly enough, this one’s different and it’s very un-lame.

Not only is this a semi-Christmas movie, making it somewhat pertinent in that regard, but considering how badly Did You Heard About the Morgans? is getting shit on at the moment, I think our guy Hugh could use all the compliments he can get right now.

Turns out, Hugh Grant can be pretty solid when he puts his mind to it. Granted, it helps that he’s got a really well-written script backing him up, but let’s not steal Hugh’s thunder here, this is foreign territory for the man. His character, Will, is pretty much a total dick for a good portion of the movie and Hugh plays him surprisingly well. Maybe it’s just ’cause of that permanently smug look he has that women love to call “cute”, but it actually suits him quite nicely.

With someone else playing Will, I don’t know if he would have been as likable. Even when he’s a scumbag, it’s hard not to find him endearing in some strange way. It takes a little while, but I really got to like Will and I think a lot that goes back to Hugh. Who knew he could do more than mumble and shift around for two hours while having either this face or this face plastered on his mug at all times? I sure didn’t, I don’t think anyone else did either. It’s a nice change for him.

But aside from Hugh, the other big thing this movie has going for it is the script. It’s based off a novel by Nick Hornby (talkin’ High Fidelity, people) and since Nick Hornby’s a damn fine writer, the end result is quite satisfying. It’s a really character-driven movie, the characters all happen to be great and fleshed out, it deals with some pretty heavy issues without making you want to off yourself, and it’s really damn witty throughout. In a nutshell, it’s a story about people and it’s not corny in the least. Good combo right there.

Almost forgot to mention Nicholas Hoult who’s freakin’ fantastic as Marcus. Really well-written kid that you like right off the bat, and since he’s apparently signed up to be in Clash of the Titans and A Single Man, Nicko must have done something right here.

Toni Collette is also great here as Marcus’ neurotic, over-protecting, super depressed mother. An already good character made better by a great actress.

Rachel Weisz is also here as Will’s love interest, but there’s not enough of her character to really say much other than that. But hey, another good actress never hurts.

Watching this again, I was thinking about giving it a 7 out of 10 because it wasn’t quite as memorable as it was the first time around, then the fantastic Third Act finally came around and  I remembered why I dug this so much to begin with. About a Boy probably isn’t what you’re expecting, but believe you me, that’s a good thing. It’s got a lot of heart, it’s the second best thing that’s ever happened to Roberta Fleck’s “Killing Me Softly” since The Fugees, and like I said, it’s the role of Hugh’s career. You can do better, Hugh. You know you can.

Really good soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy, too. Gotta give them more of a listen.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. madhatter21 permalink
    December 20, 2009 9:39 am

    Cripes it’s been too long since I watched this movie – thanks for the post reminding me to do so.

    Now here’s the $64,000 question – which do you prefer: the book’s ending or the film’s ending?

    • December 21, 2009 11:45 am

      Damn, still need to read the book. Only thing I’ve read by Hornby is A Long Way Down which had potential but I didn’t really dig it. Need to give this one and High Fidelity a read-through. Will get back to you on that.

      • December 21, 2009 12:08 pm

        Only thing I’ve read by Hornby is A Long Way Down…

        Fail. Epic fail. No seriously – stop reading right now and drive to your nearest bookstore.

        Start with High Fidelity and About a Boy, then move straight to his latest one Juliet, Naked. For some great non-fiction, track down his collection of essays on songs called Songbook.

        Once you’ve read those pick up How to Be Good which I seem to like a bit more each time I read it, but doesn’t feel on a level of the others.

        …What are you waiting for? Get going!

      • December 21, 2009 12:12 pm

        Haha, consider them on the Christmas list. You’re not the first to bring this to my attention.

  2. December 21, 2009 7:00 am

    totally agree. Grant is great in this
    that bon jovi quote at the end is one of the great final quotes

  3. Branden permalink
    December 21, 2009 2:43 pm

    This is the best role that Hugh Grant ever had. It’s not his typical romantic comedy movie. It has some heart and soul about connecting with another human being. Great movie.

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