About a Boy
Caring and sharing. Will pretends to be a single father to pick up girls

dir Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz
scr Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
with Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz, Sharon Small, Victoria Smurfit, Augustus Prew, Isabel Brook, Annabelle Apsion
release UK 26.Apr.02; US 17.May.02
02/UK 1h41

3½ out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E

manchild Based on Nick Hornby's bestseller, this gentle rom-com comes from the makers of Hugh Grant's other rom-coms (Four Weddings, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones) by way of the Weitz brothers (American Pie). The result is surprisingly effective--excellent performances, character based comedy and even a few serious moments. Will (Grant) is a 38-year-old with no responsibilities who pretends to be a single dad to pick up single mums. But his scam unravels when he meets Marcus (Hoult), a nebbish 12-year-old raised against the grain by his bleeding-heart, vegetarian, suicidal mother (Collette). Before they realise what's happening, Will and Marcus become friends ... and they start helping each other grow up and make sense of the world around them.

The key here is Hornby's wonderful power of observation, most notably that "once you open your door to one person, anyone can come in." As these characters all move from isolated loners to relying on each other, the film never pounds its point in--even the big set pieces are slightly askance, just giving more insight into the characters without preaching. The Weitzes add nice little spins (the Bride of Frankenstein clips are great), keeping things breezy and yet quite sincere under the surface. And the actors are wonderful: Hoult is a real discovery, an authentic one-off kid. Grant again plays with his on-screen persona, a bit more bitter and acerbic than usual, keeping the mumbling to a minimum. Weisz does a nice supporting turn as his new love interest. And Collette, as usual, somehow manages to turn her pathetic comic character into someone we actually care about and are interested in. It's hard to imagine another actress making her even remotely as quirky and endearing as this. There's also a fantastic score by Darren Gough (aka Badly Drawn Boy). Where it puts a foot wrong, perhaps, is in the incessant internal-thought narration from Will and Marcus--some of it is necessary (and funny), while at other times it's quite intrusive. But this isn't bad enough to damage what is otherwise a thoroughly engaging, surprisingly touching British comedy.
themes, language cert 12 23.Mar.02

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Chris, USA: "I enjoyed the movie very much, perhaps even more than the book. Grant and the boy are both very good, and I laughed throughout the film. Whether a movie with some dark story lines (attempted suicide) will be the hit 'romatic comedy' people seem to expect will remain to be seen. To me, it deserves to be popular just because it's different and unpredictable, unlike most of the trash that gets released. There's one 'feel good' scene near the end that almost scuttles the movie, but they come back from the brink and wrap things up quite nicely." (12.Apr.02)

manchild David Haviland, London: 4 out of 5 stars "Consistently funny and very enjoyable, but the conservatism at its heart rankles slightly. The main story concerns Will helping Marcus become popular by buying him cool stuff that the school bullies will approve of. Will provides the real world answers that Marcus’s hippy mum hides from, but his willingness to submit and conform is cowardly, and skirts around the real issue of bullying, which I suspect is rarely alleviated just by buying the right pair of trainers. Nonetheless the film is a charming adaptation of Nick Hornby’s novel, directed with pace and wit by Chris and Paul Weitz. Toni Collette is brave and moving as Marcus’s lonely mother, and Nicholas Hoult plays Marcus with sadness and integrity. Hugh Grant is the star, of course, and he manages to not only make the superficial Will believable, but also to show us glimpses of his humanity with subtlety and taste. It is a wonderful comic performance, from the only actor in the world who could have given it." (9.Jan.04)

Ronz, net: "I am a very big fan of About a BBBBBBBBBBBoy - sorry my stammer is a bit bad. I really lllliked Augustus PPPPPPrew because he did a good job playing Ali. can they make a sequel, aboutt AAAAAAllllllli?" (13.May.04)

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