ABOUT A BOY
A womanising bachelor at 38, Will (Hugh Grant) is not only unmarried but unemployed. Not because he canít get a job, but because he doesnít want or need one. His daily mission is to meet and seduce women; single, married, doesnít matter. On one crafty mission at a single parenting support group, he meets a girl (Victoria Smurfit) whose friend (Toni Collette) has a sonÖcalled Marcus (Nicholas Hoult). Marcus is a troubled boy with a depressed mum and instead of friends at school, he has bullies to meet every day. When Will catches one of these bully attacks, he sublimates his dislike for kids and tries to befriend Marcus. It leads to an engaging and extraordinary friendship that in turn leads to Will himself growing up. A bit.
Review by Louise Keller:
I am about to name drop. In Cannes this year (2002), I met and chatted with Hugh Grant, who proved beyond doubt that the witty, self-effacing character he plays in most of his films is an extension of himself. In fact, without a script, he is even wittier, funnier and a damn sight more charming than his screen personas. He jived about how the media thinks he can play only one character. Itís curious why some consider this to be a negative Ė after all, look at Hollywood icons such as Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Gregory Peck, who essentially always played a variation on a similar persona. But I digress. Grant is at his comedic best in About A Boy, a poignantly funny coming of age story about two boys who donít feel as though they belong. The fact that one is a 12 year old and the other a thirty-something child at heart is beside the point. Grantís Will lives a life Ďbusy doing nothingí (remember the song?) Ė an idle bachelor who thrives on filling his day watching television game shows, playing snooker, hanging out in fashionable restaurants, dating innumerable beautiful women and indulging in activities that allow him to remain elusive and in charge of his own destiny. Itís a marvellous performance with just the right balance of self-effacement, wit, humour and dramatic moments that surprisingly bring tears. In fact, Grant manages to go beyond the superficial: underneath the laughter and quips for which he is famous, lies a depth that we havenít seen before. Both Will and Marcus are fish out of water, and when their worlds intersect, both are all the richer for the friendship. Nick Hornbyís characters are seeded in reality and Nicholas Hoult is wonderfully cast as the young boy, with no signs of Hollywood cute-ness; very real. Toni Collette is superb as the dowdy, misguided, hippy-mum whose heart is in the right place, but is too close to see the perils her son is embroiled in. Itís a truly unglamorous role, with Collette spending much of her screen time bawling her eyes out and wearing a wardrobe that makes Op Shop couture look alluring. Rachel Weisz is lovely as the ultimate love interest, but the pathway to the relationship between Will and Rachel is anything but smooth. There are many memorable scenes, but none more so than the school rock concert, when Marcus nominates himself to sing at great cost to himself. Itís a beautifully directed scene, that could easily have become sugar coated, but is one of the emotional high points. A genuinely feel-good movie that is all at once a romantic comedy and a coming of age story, All About A Boy is a delight.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Almost savage in its intense exploration of misfits, About A Boy is a terrific film Ė funny, yes, but also dramatically engaging - based on good writing (Nick Hornby). I love it when the ideas that underpin a work are so complete, complex and congealed, developed from an instinctive understanding of human nature. No question, though, that directors Paul and Chris Weitz are crucial in the exercise, their sense of character as refined as the palate of a wine judge. Only once or twice does the film fall into the traps of comedic contrivance (eg Will meeting the Marcus family), and only once or twice do we feel manipulated (eg the single parents support group meetings). Hugh Grant shakes off his idiosyncrasies to bring us a character so conflicted as to be at once resigned and resolute. Itís his best and most mature performance to date. Young Nicholas Hoult is exceptional as Marcus Ė as he needs to be to make the film work. Toni Collette will tear your heart out, but Rachel Weisz is thrown away in a role thatís probably impossible to play on screen, however well it works in a book. Sheís a fantasy. All the support roles are marvellous, and the filmís dynamic range is wide enough to ensure satisfaction for a night at the movies. And maybe even prompt some feely ideas about human nature. Itís all button pushing, but well disguised button pushing.
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TONI COLLETTE INTERVIEW by Jenny Cooney Carrillo in LA
ABOUT A BOY (M)
CAST: Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz, Victoria Smurfit
PRODUCER: Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, Brad Epstein, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner
DIRECTOR: Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz
SCRIPT: Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz (based on the novel by Nick Hornby)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Remi Adefarasin BSC
EDITOR: Nick Moore
MUSIC: Charles Fox, Norman Gimbel, Damon Gough, Mystikal
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jim Clay
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 1, 2002
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
VIDEO RELEASE: December 23, 2002