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About a Boy (2002)

  Written by: Nick Hornby
Starring: Toni Collette, Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult
Links: About a Boy on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Book
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 8.33 (3 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 48th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

About a Boy (2002) is also mentioned in pearly's review of High Fidelity (2000), mino's review of Love Actually (2003) and andy-j's review of Two Weeks Notice (2002).

"Who da man? Hugh da man!" - a review by mino

I'm not 100% sure, but I think that me saying what I'm about to say is listed in the Bible as one of the signs of the impending apocalypse. I'm pretty certain that no-one will be expecting me to say it, that's for sure: a lot of bookmakers in Las Vegas have been running enormous odds against me saying it, or anything like it, for a long time. My reputation will be shattered. But, alas, it's true: I actually quite like Hugh Grant.

There. I've said it.

I shouldn't, I know: he's a shallow, one-dimensional foppish buffoon who can only play shallow, one-dimensional, foppish buffoons. The fact is, though, there's no-one on this planet who can play ‘lovable roguish arsehole’ quite like Hugh Grant can. And what with ‘lovable roguish arsehole’ being one of the truly classic movie stereotypes, Hugh Grant is kind of a handy person for Hollywood to keep around. Normally, I hate one-dimensional actors: in Grant's case, I'm prepared to make an exception just because he's so damned good at it.

About A Boy is no exception: in fact, it's a… well, whatever the opposite of exception is. Grant's character in About A Boy is, in fact, the ultimate arsehole. Will is a shallow, self-centred, egotistical jerk who coasts through life on an inheritance and hedonism, not worrying at all about anyone else's needs or feelings.

Needless to say, this is all due for a change. In Will's case, change takes the form of a young boy named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), who is trying to cope with not only being the ‘odd one out’ everywhere he goes, but also with his suicidal mother (Toni Collette, who here sets a new record for ‘freakiest single mother played by Toni Collette’, eclipsing even The Sixth Sense (1999)). Will and Marcus rather predictably become friends, and help each other to grow as people, blah blah blah, you know the drill.

About A Boy is nothing special on the originality front, that's for sure. But the fact is, it's done very well, with great acting performances (Hoult especially), a razor-sharp script (by Nick Hornby, also author of the original novel, of High Fidelity (2000) fame), a truly rockin' Badly Drawn Boy soundtrack, and some very subtle humour which really makes About A Boy a tremendously enjoyable film.

The movie is not without its flaws: the music-video style cuts and jumps in the editing, for example, which are no doubt just trying to be too-cool-for-school (much like Hornby himself, I feel), but instead struck me as astoundingly irritating. The movie also seems a little unsure as to whether it should be delivering a moral or not, and as a result kind of dithers a little towards the end.

That said, though, you can't really go wrong with an even moderately faithful reproduction of a Nick Hornby novel. He's a great writer, with a great eye for character, and though About A Boy may not have been his greatest work, the movie thereof is certainly a very enjoyable way to spend an evening.

mino gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 7 Jan 2004

"About A Nine" - a review by andy-j

Will (Hugh Grant) is an immature 39-year old man going through life without any real purpose and enjoying every minute of it. He is financially free and has never worked a day in his life. Will seems perfectly content being a bachelor, stepping in and out of go-nowhere relationships and devastating his partners without a second thought. While embarking on his latest scheme to meet single women, he encounters Marcus, a rather odd young 12 year-old who has no friends and endures constant bullying from the students at his school. Marcus' mother is suicidal and depressed. She spends so much time crying that she isn't aware how much her son is suffering with problems that he tries to hide from her to keep her from sinking further into misery. Will and Marcus strike up an unusual friendship, and for perhaps the first time in years, Will begins to understand that the effort involved in loving and appreciating others is worth the pay-off. Their friendship turns out to be beneficial for both of them and worthwhile for those around them.

About a Boy is extremely enjoyable. The characters are warm, funny, surprising and three-dimensional. Far from starkly drawing out each character's flaws and labelling them as "WRONG", the film is a much kinder and subtle and presents the main characters as people who are more them than just their faults (ie. you can appreciate that even though Marcus is kinda weird, he's a very brave young man). It also tends to use said faults to generate some very very funny lines. Humour plays a very big part in this film, adding a huge level of enjoyment and charm. I didn't think that I would be laughing out loud at this movie when I picked it up, but I found that this was the case plenty of times throughout.

Hugh Grant... well... maybe it's just that I can't get past his accent, but I've never really liked him. It always seems he's playing his parts in the exact same way. He seems to fit right into this role though, and injects a lot of depth into his character. I've been turned around by his performance here. Nicholas Hoult, who plays Marcus, is excellent. Toni Collette is also totally believeable - once again playing a role that is unlike any she has played before. I must also mention the soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy - some great tunes that work really well in this film.

This film doesn't take itself overly seriously. It is subtle in delivering its message, concentrating just as much on being entertaining and funny. It is well-balanced and highly enjoyable. I'll definitely be seeing this one again - I think over time About a Boy will become an all-time favourite of mine.

andy-j gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Wed 8 Jan 2003

"Hugh Grant does good" - a review by pearly

I read Nick Hornby's book About a Boy a couple of years ago, and really enjoyed it. When I heard that it was being made into a film, I thought "great!". But then, when I heard that the film would star Hugh Grant as Will, I groaned. It's not just that I'm not a huge fan of Hugh's work, it's that when I read the book, I pictured the character of Will as this amazingly cool guy - which is totally different to how I picture Hugh Grant.

So, right from the get-go, Grant had his work cut out for him in trying to impress this little black duck. But, blow-me-down, he managed to pull it off. I'm not ashamed to say that I thought he was wonderful. He was even almost cool. I don't understand it, but there it is.

This movie was a heap better than I expected it to be. I thought it was really funny, and captured the magic of the book. One of the nicest things about reading a Nick Hornby book is that they're familiar. They contain references to today; whether it be a mention of a TV program or a band. The movie also does this, and it just feels good.

One thing that bothered me initially though was that Nicholas Hoult, who plays Marcus, has outrageous eyebrows. I never knew that a twelve-year-old could have eyebrows like that of Australian prime-minister John Howard, but this little guy proves me wrong. Thankfully, for a fair portion of the film, he wears a hat, so the eyebrows aren't as noticeable - and it's a good thing, because once you forget about the eyebrows, you figure something out. He's a really great actor! Forget rat-like-Haley Joel Osment, cast Nicholas instead.

This is a perfect film for one of those I-wanna-watch-something-good-and-funny-in-a-laid-back-relaxing-with-a-sody-pop-and-a-few-friends moments. I'm surprising myself by giving it an 8 - I nearly went a 9.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 27 Aug 2002

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 3
Average rating: 8.33
Lowest rating: 8 (by mino, pearly)
Highest rating: 9 (by andy-j)
 
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