Director(s): Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
Writer(s): Nick Hornby (novel), Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz (screenplay)
Category: Drama / Comedy
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some thematic elements.
Runtime: 101 min
Plot: Based on Nick Hornby’s popular British novel, About A Boy is a comedy-drama starring Hugh Grant as Will, a rich, child-free and irresponsible Londoner in his thirties who, in search of available women, invents an imaginary son and starts attending single parent meetings. As a result of one of his liaisons, he meets Marcus, an odd 12-year-old boy with problems at school. Gradually, Will and Marcus become friends, and as Will teaches Marcus how to be a cool kid, Marcus helps Will to finally grow up.
I first saw this movie while on a business trip to Chattanooga. I needed to finish up some work on a presentation I was making the next day and there was nothing on TV, so I decided to splurge and rent an On-Demand movie. Most of the movies I had either seen, or had no interest in seeing and just as I was about to turn it off, I came across About A Boy. I hadn’t heard much buzz about the movie and I’m not a fan of Hugh Grant, but for reasons unknown to me, I rented it.
I was expecting another one of Hugh Grant’s saccharine romantic comedies where he plays a charming befuddling fop as he’s done ad nauseam since Four Weddings And A Funereal. Granted, I liked Four Weddings immensely, but by Notting Hill I’d had my fill. Much to my surprise, Grant was playing a completely different character and was clearly attempting to break his mold. He’d done that once before in Bridget Jones’ Diary, where he played a jerk, but now he was taking it in another direction entirely. It’s a refreshing and more importantly interesting change.
But this movie isn’t all about Hugh Grant’s character Will. His co-star is new comer Nicholas Hoult, who plays the boy Marcus and he carries his own. Ultimately, the movie is about both of them, and so Hoult has the responsibility of carrying half the weight of the movie and he does a splendid job. Rounding out the cast is Toni Collette and Rachel Weisz, each do an excellent job as well. Suffice to say that the casting for this movie is brilliant. Each character is fully developed and rich with complexity and emotion. I bought each and every one of them. Not once did I feel that there was a weak link in the bunch. That’s also surprising because this type of movie is hard to pull off.
So what kind of movie is this? At it’s heart, this movie is a comedy. That being said, with subject matter such as suicide, it is most definitely a drama as well. That’s a fine line to walk in a film but Weitz Brothers deftly manage to pull it off. Granted their movie is based on the Hornby book by the same name, so they had a rich palette to begin with, but the brothers clearly rose to the challenge and created a fantastic movie. There have been plenty of good books that have been butchered at the box office and Boy is a rare exception. There’s no cliche’ choices made by the characters and the director’s did a great job at staying true to the tone of the book. Chris and Paul also stretched themselves with their camera work and it pays off. If you’re into “film” there’s a lot to chew on between the use of jump cuts, depth of focus and swing shots. None of this gets in the way of the movie. If anything these camera techniques add to the performances and help tell the story.
Interweaving it’s way throughout the movie and in some cases almost playing a role in the film, is the music and it is spot on. All the music was written by Badly Drawn Boy specifically for this movie. I was not familiar with the artist prior to seeing the film, but the director’s couldn’t have made a better choice. Although each song stands on it’s own on the soundtrack, each song also easily blends into the scene and lends a hand in creating just the right tone for the movie. After listening to the soundtrack, I could imagine it as simply a regular artist release, so it stands on it’s own. Yet when it’s worked into the movie it’s pure gold.
I absolutely love this movie. After my first watching I was reduced to a puddle of tears by the time the credits rolled. Yes I laughed. Yes the movie is very very funny, but it also touched me on a very deep level and emotions were bound to follow. In an odd sort of karmic journey, I happen to be taking a flight to San Jose the next week and the movie being shown was About A Boy. Having just seen it a few days before, I figured I’d pass on seeing it again so soon, but after the first scene, I was digging for my headphones to watch it again. Being that I was in public, I quietly wiped a few tears, but managed to keep it together. Upon returning from San Jose, Boy was being shown yet again and I watched it for a third time! In the space of two weeks, I had seen the movie three times. That’s definitely a first in my book.
So why do I like it so much? I’d like to think that I’m not alone in this, but it’s because I can relate to the movie on so many levels. There are so many scenes that I could describe, but in the end I would be retelling the entire movie. Every scene has something in it that is worth watching again and again. I can relate to Marcus as he’s picked on in school, tries to cope with his mother’s depression and ultimately knowingly faces complete and utter embarrassment as a last ditch effort to make his mother happy. The names and places have been changed to protect the innocent, but I’ve been there. Then there’s Will who has to finally face his demons and his father’s legacy in order to join the human race and be a part of other peoples lives. Although not an exact context, I’ve been there in one way shape or form.
Surprisingly, I caught myself watching it again the other day on DVD and it struck me that this movie is now in my Top 10, or dare I say Top 5 movie list. I maybe be borrowing from another fantastic Hornby book/movie High Fidelity, but it’s true. It’s not Citizen Kane, but it is one of the best movies that takes a funny look at becoming a man through two different people. In trying to describe this movies to others, I’ve called it “A guy’s romantic comedy.” That doesn’t really nail it on the head, but I’d like to think that About A Boy, IS a guy’s movie. The subject matter may not have Rambo’s, or Rocky’s, but any guy who can think about something other than sports, or monster trucks should get something from this movie. It’s Hugh Grant’s best work to date. It’s based on a hugely successful book and it’s funny as hell. What’s not to like?
My Rating: (5 Out Of 5 Stars)