Film: About a Boy

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Film:

About a Boy

Director: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Universal Studios

A box-office smash in England, About a Boy went on to charm the world as another fine adaptation (following High Fidelity) of a popular Nick Hornby novel. While High Fidelity transplanted its London charm to Chicago, this irresistible comedy was directed by Americans Chris and Paul Weitz (American Pie) with its British pedigree intact. Better yet, Hugh Grant is perfectly cast as Will, a self-absorbed trust-fund slacker who tries to improve his romantic odds by preying on desperate single mothers. His cynical strategy backfires when he…

Reviews

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A box-office smash in England, About a Boy went on to charm the world as another fine adaptation (following High Fidelity) of a popular Nick Hornby novel. While High Fidelity transplanted its London charm to Chicago, this irresistible comedy was directed by Americans Chris and Paul Weitz (American Pie) with its British pedigree intact. Better yet, Hugh Grant is perfectly cast as Will, a self-absorbed trust-fund slacker who tries to improve his romantic odds by preying on desperate single mothers. His cynical strategy backfires when he recruits the misfit son (Nicholas Hoult) of a suicidal mother (Toni Collette) to pose as his own son, thus proving his parental prowess to his latest single-mom target (Rachel Weisz). The kid has a warming effect on this ultimate cad, and what could have been a sappy tearjerker turns into a subtle, frequently hilarious portrait of familial quirks and elevated self-esteem. From start to finish, it’s a genuine treat. —Jeff Shannon

The film version of Nick Hornby’s novel About a Boy takes a deeper though no less entertaining approach than the easy laughs of Fever Pitch and High Fidelity. The “coming together” of idle playboy Will (Hugh Grant) and put-upon loner Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) is a revealing tale of self-understanding and role reversal. Will finds that being yourself is of little consequence without a defining human context, while Marcus finds that pleasing others counts for little without a degree of self-confidence. How they arrive at this complementary awareness is the intriguing subject matter of the film, involving well-meaning single mothers, difficult adolescents and helpless older adults. Yet there’s a wider significance to all this in the guise of human stereotypes—how we fall into them and how we can try to get out of them.

The film’s wit and amusement comes down to deft and understated directing from Chris and Paul Weitz, and a snappily crafted screenplay from Peter Hedges and the Weitz brothers. Grant clips his hair as well as his vowels for a believable and ultimately sympathetic Will—by far his best performance since Four Weddings and a Funeral. As Marcus, Hoult is convincingly self-dependent, but could have been even more self-absorbed. Toni Colette is a dead-ringer for the well-meaning but ineffectual hippie mother Fiona, while Rachel Weisz gives her best screen performance to date as the attractive and vulnerable Rachel, with whom Will comes of age emotionally. Badly Drawn Boy’s soundtrack will delight those who enjoy his brand of reconstituted 1970s Dylan; the title track has a wistful charm and there’s a gem of an instrumental in the “Countdown” sequence. About a Boy is in the best traditions of British comedy: enlightening as it amuses, it’s a film to enjoy and come back to. —Richard Whitehouse

Related Works

Album:About a Boy: Music from the Motion Picture

About a Boy: Music from the Motion Picture

Badly Drawn Boy

For a man frequently stereotyped as shambolic and perverse, Badly Drawn Boy moves with unusual grace. On About A Boy, he pulls off something truly rare—a coherent soundtrack album, and one that’s much more than a mere adjunct to the Nick Hornby/Hugh Grant masculinity-in-crisis blockbuster. Of 16 tracks, seven are instrumental passages that mostly realise Damon Gough’s penchant for pretty orchestral reveries. The other nine, meanwhile, are fully formed new Badly Drawn Boy songs, rarely straying far from the templates set on The Hour Of The Bewilderbeast.…

Book:About a Boy: A Novel

About a Boy: A Novel

Nick Hornby

Will is thirty-six and doesn’t really want children. Why does it bother people that he lives so happily alone in a fashionable, Lego-free flat, with massive speakers and a mammoth record collection, hardwood floors, and an expensive cream-colored rug that no kid has ever thrown up on?

Then Will meets Angie. He’s never been out with anyone who was a mom. And it has to be said that Angie’s long blond hair and big blue eyes are not irrelevant to Will’s reassessment of his attitude toward children. Then it dawns on Will that maybe Angie goes out with him because of the children. That maybe children democratize beautiful, single women. That single mothers—bright, attractive, available women—were all over London…Marcus is twelve and he knows he’s weird. It was all his mother’s fault, Marcus figured. She was the one who made him listen to Joni Mitchell instead of Nirvana, and read books instead of play…[more]

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