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About a Boy

August 23, 2010

About a Boy (2002)
Directors: Chris and Paul Weitz
Actors: Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette

300px-Hugh_Grant_in_About_a_Boy.jpg (300×209)

Synopsis: Will (Hugh Grant) is an emotionally-stunted London bachelor, fortunate to be living off the royalties of one of his father’s songs. When Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) comes into Will’s life however, everything begins to change…

Review: This is one of those rare instances where a perfect combination of material/actor/director makes for a thoroughly diverting mainstream confection. In a role that was made for Hugh Grant, Nick Hornby’s source novel imagines his character as the eternal man-child, navigating his way through the London dating scene thanks to his caddish charms and some debatable tactics such as claiming to be a single-father. Ally that set-up to the Weitz brothers’ keen feel for crowd-pleasing, comedic exposition (as in their marquee work American Pie), and it’s no surprise that the film rattles on at a fair pace to its inevitable, if well-charted, happy conclusion.

To nitpick, according Grant’s character a voiceover is a prosaic choice and rids him of a degree of negative shading that might have made his journey that little more compelling and ambiguous. The film’s exploitative attitude towards the severe depression suffered by Toni Collette’s single mum is also questionable, and the Weitz bros tend to overkill the narrative with pop songs (as in their recent comedy In Good Company) just in case the viewer had failed to get the already obvious sentimental moments. Those minor quibbles aside, this is still a breezily entertaining film, and stands as confirmation that with the right material, Hugh Grant’s persona can find apt coverage on the big screen. (April 2009)

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