believe the reason "About a Boy" is so good is
because it's hard to peg the movie into any (or any couple of) categories. It's
not exactly a Comedy, since there's very little laugh out loud moments. It's not
exactly a Romance because a love interest for Huge Grant's Will doesn't appear
onscreen until well past the halfway mark, and she doesn't stay for any length
of time. If I had to place the film, I would call it a Drama, because it touches
on some very important issues without sugarcoating it -- or at least, not
sugarcoating it so much that I noticed. Of course, that doesn't keep the film
from being oftentimes funny, insightful, and heartwarming as well.
Perennial English film Romantic Lead Hugh Grant stars as
Will, a shallow bachelor who "does nothing" for a living. Will's life
consists of wasting away his day and because he lives on the residuals from a
popular song written by his late father, Will doesn't have to take on something
as bothersome as a job. (Will's lack of a job provides a running gag throughout
the movie.) Will's life gets turned upside down when he encounters Marcus
(Nicholas Hoult), a 12-year old boy struggling with his own life.
Marcus' mother, Fiona (Toni Collette) is eternally
depressed and has already attempted suicide once, and Marcus is seeing the
warning signs all over again. In an effort to keep his mom afloat, Marcus
attempts to maneuver Will into the family's life, and what started as a way to
keep Marcus' home life in one piece turns into Will's chance to escape his own
empty existence. As Will narrates, "No man is an island", even if he
insists that he is the exception.
The best thing about "About a Boy" is its
interpretation of the Marcus character. As played by Nicholas Hoult, Marcus is
not all that bright (re: he's no kid genius). He's also not all that
"cool" or "hip" (he's bullied at school on a regular basis).
In fact, Marcus has no answers to anything. And those things are what make
Marcus so real and hopelessly likeable. We are immediately on his side and we
How many times have we seen movie kids that seem to know
all the mysteries of the universe? Or kids that could throw back a clever
one-liner and outwit adults without breaking a sweat, even though they've never
left their room? Hollywood is obsessed with making kids smarter than they
actually are, probably because they pander to the "young" demographic
so much. (And who doesn't like to be told that they're smarter and cooler than
they actually feel -- and know -- they are?)
Marcus brings a fresh air for the simple reason that he is so
real. Young Nicholas Hoult plays the boy with the perfect combination of
naiveté and innate resourcefulness. (And is it me or does Marcus look a little
bit like a Vulcan?) This is the portrayal movies should endeavor to make. Kids
are confused about everything -- life, love, family, and themselves. "About
a Boy" shows it like it is, not how some screenwriter thinks kids should be
so the kids watching the film will "dig" it.
And then there's Huge Grant. To be honest, I've never been
that big a fan of Grant. That isn't to say I dislike the man, just that I've
always found his films to be cookie cutter versions of each other. Like Freddie
Prinze Jr., only as an adult. While Grant's Will is so unabashedly shallow that
he's fun to watch, I couldn't really say if Will affected me at all. The obvious
parallels the film was trying to draw between Will's isolated life and Marcus'
burgeoning adulthood was obvious. Grant's interactions with Marcus are
priceless, but I still can't shake the feeling that Grant has played this
character (only even more shallow in this one) ever since the guy started
"About a Boy" is a very good film, even if it got
somewhat predictable toward the end. There is always conflict in Romantic
Comedies (or Dramas on the verge of Comedies) toward the end that separates the
main character from his love interest (or in this case, his friend), only to
have a reunion take place at the end by means of a sequence of contrived events.
"Boy", which had been an original film in every respect up to this
point, took a slight blundering step in the end.
A slight one, to be sure -- but one nevertheless.