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Overall Rating

Awesome: 41.53%
Worth A Look46.61%
Average: 3.39%
Pretty Bad: 1.69%
Total Crap: 6.78%

7 reviews, 76 user ratings

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About a Boy
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by MP Bartley

"Just About a Brilliant Film."
5 stars

Admit it, it didn't sound great at first, did it? A care-free, childish bachelor is forced to face life's realities and grow up after befriending a young boy. It sounded like Adam Sandler was inflicting 'Big Daddy' upon us again. And yes, those statements do to some extent happen in 'About A Boy'. But certainly not in the way you expect them to.

'About A Boy' starts off with two voice-overs. The first comes from Will (Hugh Grant), a thirty something who seemingly has everything. He has no need for a job, as he lives off the royalties from a Christmas song his dead father wrote, which is trotted out every year. He has a great car, a great flat and more importantly for Will, has no responsibilities and no-one depending upon him. As he happily remarks to a friend who thinks he has hidden depths, he really is this shallow. And he has a new avenue to explore when it comes to finding dates and new one-night stands: single mothers. The theory being that they'll be so grateful for someone to lavish attention upon them, that they'll fall easily for Will's charms.

The second voice-over comes from Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), a 12 year old boy who comes from a single mother, Fiona (Toni Collette). But Marcus is an unhappy little boy. He doesn't fit in at school, with his funny haircut and habit for singing out loud, while Fiona is a borderline suicidal hippy, with no-one else to look out for Marcus. And because of Will's new habit of preying on single mothers, his and Marcus' paths are soon entangled together, as Marcus begins to visit Will's house every day.

It's easy to think that 'About A Boy' will fall into cliche pretty easily. After all, Will is just an over-grown boy, while Marcus has been forced to grow up just far too quickly. But easy sentimentality and convenient answers are deftly avoided here, in a film that looks for genuine emotional truths rather than easy laughs. There are no scenes revolving around puke (the only puke coming from Fionas suicide attempt) or other bodily fluids, or being hit in the balls with a heavy object here. Instead, Paul and Chris Weitzs direction is much more subtle and clever than that. For any comedy like this to work, the direction can't be over-powering or broad, but character focused and the brothers keep it admirably restrained. The film is bright and sunny to keep it appropriately cinematic, and they have a fine eye for the cluttered detail of everyday life. Despite being set in London, it doesn't fall into the usual middle-class cliches of a Working Title film, with the Weitzs wisely not dwelling on insufferable wacky sidekicks or urbanely witty suburbanites. They're much more concerned with 'real' people and it makes a refreshing change. The rhythm of the comedy is razor sharp and their use of editing and scene transitions creates some of the best gags alone.

But this is much more than a technical lesson in creating a comedy. The screenplay is mature and finely tuned with genuine food for thought. A restaurant yelling match between Will and Fiona over just what he's doing with a 12 year old boy in his house each day, never descends into cliche, with Will neatly asking the question, just what is Fiona doing letting Marcus take on her problems by himself? It's this adult and frank approach to the issues here that make 'About A Boy' much more than its synopsis sounds. But this isn't a heavy, soul searching exercise either. Despite its suicidal mother and bullied little boy, it's also very, very funny. Will charming himself into the single parents meeting with his invented son, Ned, is a terrific scene, and Will's dry voice-over keeps the chuckles coming. There's an argument that, right at the end, the film finally falls into cliche with a potential cornball ending, but it's an ending that the film absolutely deserves. It's played everything honest and open up to that moment, so it comes across as a genuine climax of the events rather than something tacked on to get a final, big laugh. 'About A Boy' is a rare film that really makes you care about the characters and earns its one 'big' moment at the end.

And the performances are terrific across the board. Collette is one of the most undervalued actresses today and is great as Fiona, neatly sidestepping the cliches that her character could fall into. Hoult is terrific too, perfectly nailing the sadness and frustration of a confused and vulnerable little boy. Some say he's wooden at times, but his ocassional flat delivery is keeping with the character - how many 12 year olds can express their emotions adequately?

And then there's Hugh Grant. Now many critics (myself included) will criticise Grant for essentially playing the same part over and over again, and at first glance that's what he's doing here. But look closer. This is a character, who at the beginning is a complete twat to say the least (preying on single mothers?!), yet Grant makes us involved in him, and even like him. This is a character that has a full and complete character arc, without beating you over the head with it. If the Academy gave out Oscars for comic roles more than once in a blue moon, Grant would have had his first nomination sown up. But more fool them, for this is an astonishing performance. Grant gives us fleeting glimpses of the emptiness within Will without over-emoting or milking the scenes for all their worth. In several confrontation scenes, you can see the nagging pain of the character just below his confident exterior, as Grant touches the grace notes without making it obvious what Will is feeling. It's a pent-up, fragile performance at once very funny (many scenes are rendered just from Grant's flippant delivery or facial expression), but also quietly touching. This maturity of performance shines through in the afore-mentioned restaurant scene, but also the scenes just between him and Hoult. It's a performance to be proud of, as it makes much more of Will than you would think possible.

If there's another character in the film deserving of praise, then it's Badly Drawn Boy who provides the soundtrack. Delicately done, it eschews convention and cliche to give the film a lithe and sprightly quality to it. One track in particular, A Minor Incident, says much more about suicide than any over-written speech ever could.

There would certainly be some who would wonder just why 'About A Boy' merits the full five stars. After all, it's rarely laugh out funny, just consistently amusing. But it gets the five stars because it's much more than that, it's a mature and touching film that isn't afraid to look at real emotions and real people, without trivialising them or dumbing down. It's a film where the characters seem like honest, genuine people who you really, really end up rooting for. And that, my friends, is the magic of movies in one sentence.

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originally posted: 11/01/05 23:15:37
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User Comments

9/02/19 Louise (the real one) This film has heart & soul. Great acting! The book too is excellent. 5 stars
6/22/14 Richard Brandt Sweet; her reaction hearing Will worked at Amnesty International is priceless 4 stars
3/16/12 Amanda Oh ReallyBickcock, you have better lock playing with yourself. 4 stars
7/29/10 ReallyBickcock I have a really huge dick and i wanna fuck the moms in this movie 5 stars
7/01/10 ddfdfgh this film was very boring 3 stars
7/27/08 Samantha Pruitt hugh grant was great, very sweet movie! 4 stars
5/04/08 Amiida Hilarious,but still loyal to the book,just fantastic 5 stars
4/07/08 beau bloody hilarious. Hugh grant and toni collette are gold! the kid is now in tv show 'Skins' 4 stars
3/03/08 ladavies Hugh Grant can do no wrong. 4 stars
2/09/08 Samantha P i love this movie, it was so sweet, and Hugh Grant is as charming as usual! 4 stars
5/26/07 T. Monaco Great Film 5 stars
11/01/06 Pinkline Jones Fine film. Grant excellent 1 stars
10/04/06 Baldeadly Was just as good as the book. Brill! Really funny and different. Hugh Grant is Really class 5 stars
5/06/06 Ashley Hinz I didn't like this film overly much, but I like the actors. 4 stars
4/10/06 Thomas Semesky A charming movie that doesn't go over the edge. 4 stars
3/09/06 Dk A cute and funny little film 4 stars
2/20/06 Tanya very entertaining 4 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Strong comedy. Grant at his best. Love the story. 4 stars
11/09/05 Ole Man Bourbon Some sappiness, but some hilarious scenes. Hugh Grant makes a great asshole. 4 stars
9/25/05 D Buckley Better than the book 5 stars
3/21/05 Richard Pryor the best since 4 weddings and a funerla 5 stars
2/18/05 noob boob not crap, not great, just average 3 stars
1/17/05 DM Very, very funny 5 stars
1/04/05 HL Very Enjoyable Movie - Hugh Grant is Perfect... 4 stars
7/08/04 wattsski Absolutely brillaint and hillarious writing. I've seen it 28 times, it never gets old. 5 stars
5/03/04 Jan In my opinion the book is more interesting than the film. 3 stars
2/18/04 Pinkline Jones Brilliant Brilliant Brilliant 5 stars
2/12/04 mongo this is real shit! 1 stars
12/02/03 smarlie lose depth 2 stars
11/09/03 I Would Perfectly casted, excellent script and overall easy to identify with. I loved it. 4 stars
9/12/03 Goofy Maxwell If nothing else you learn that single parent dinner dates are BYOB (bring your own boy). 4 stars
4/16/03 JL Quite good, and funny. 5 stars
4/11/03 Jack Bourbon The soup kitchen scene was a pants-pisser. 4 stars
3/31/03 Vitality1 this movie was MUCH better than American Pie & Down to Earth! they don't compare!!! 5 stars
3/02/03 karen surprisingly good! is hugh going to start making decent movies now? 4 stars
2/24/03 Mitsaso Funny and emotional 5 stars
2/12/03 brentley Probably the only Hugh Grant movie I actually enjoyed.... 4 stars
2/05/03 123 fresh and unique 5 stars
2/04/03 Monday Morning Oh please...this was right out of the sugar-sucking '60s. 2 stars
2/03/03 seldom scene excellent humor, easiest british film to comprehend 5 stars
1/28/03 Pinkline Jones No substance and no good looking CHICKS! 1 stars
1/24/03 Dom Great Film 5 stars
1/06/03 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng I love this movie! If you liked "American Pie" and "Down To Earth" you'll love it too! 5 stars
9/11/02 dora brilliant,beautiful,fantastic,cool,funny,the best film i`ve seen this year 5 stars
9/10/02 John McNew Good book, GREAT movie...mostly, that is 4 stars
9/05/02 Rob real human interest story it's all about men ladies learn something !!!! 4 stars
8/28/02 viking Hugh Grant's best performance in years 5 stars
8/26/02 hum entertaining 4 stars
8/02/02 Sylvie Alice Borden Enjoyable escapist comedy that critics want to fancy to be a morality play. 4 stars
8/01/02 Matthew Smith don't expect too many laughs, it's more dramatic and at times painful 4 stars
7/28/02 Adam Voorhees A real let down, not bad but not good enough by half 3 stars
7/26/02 Turtle Hilarious and charming. Truly a great movie. 5 stars
7/11/02 Kristen Great 5 stars
6/29/02 Christopher Loved it; a wonderful movie 5 stars
6/13/02 Heather Intelligent, well-crafted, insightful movie 5 stars
6/11/02 john excellent show ... tender, well acted and touching 4 stars
6/09/02 katsat Wonderful--touching, funny, believable, deep--the year's best mainstream movie so far 5 stars
6/05/02 natasha utterly charming; excellent performances and some really good laughs 5 stars
6/05/02 Mortis Intelligent Adult humor and emotion -obliviously not for everyone 4 stars
6/03/02 cleansparks hilarious, terrific performances 5 stars
6/01/02 Blubberbot Super boring 1 stars
5/31/02 Phil M. Aficionado Delightfully funny and yet thoughtful, with some excellent performances and characters 5 stars
5/31/02 Flick Chick they call this a chick flick? 1 stars
5/29/02 ajay what's up with that kid's eyebrows? I thought it was really funny 4 stars
5/28/02 Bunny 1 Kenobi Respectable acting, but I just hate movies about sick people 1 stars
5/26/02 Nicole Pretty predictable, but decent nonetheless. Good humor. 4 stars
5/25/02 bk grant is wonderful as the boy who finally grows up 4 stars
5/25/02 frank hilarious. touching without over-doing it 5 stars
5/24/02 Kristen Hugh Grant looked good! (sizzle sizzle) 5 stars
5/22/02 Gibbo Fantastic - loyal to the book. 5 stars
5/22/02 King Kong Insipid dialogue. Like diarrhea, I kept wondering when it would end. 1 stars
5/21/02 Greyjack I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Great acting all 'round, too. 5 stars
5/19/02 Jon Artus Hugh Grant...? Without Floppy Hair...? I like it! 4 stars
5/19/02 Oracle1 If you've seen Big, Big Daddy, The Kid, then you've seen most of this film. 1 stars
5/14/02 Doc Holiday great movie, good humour bit depressing though...see it anyway 4 stars
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  17-May-2002 (PG-13)



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