About a Boy (2002)
Hugh Grant's Island Paradise
I am an island. I am bloody Ibiza! - Will
I've never been what you would call a huge fan of Hugh Grant movies, especially when in every movie he appeared to churn out the same old routine of mumbling, swearing and looking out from below his foppish hair. But then "About a Boy" is a movie which can change your opinion as Hugh Grant shows that he's more than just a mumbling Brit with a posh accent and is in fact an okay actor who when given a chance can turn in a surprisingly entertaining performance. And Hugh Grant is not the only good thing in "About a Boy" it also features strong performances from a young Nicholas Hoult as well as the brilliant Toni Collette alongside plenty of amusing and intelligent writing.
Will Freeman (Hugh Grant - Bridget Jones's Diary) has built the perfect life for himself, he does what he likes and doesn't work as he lives on the royalties from "Santa's Super Sleigh" a Christmas song that his father wrote many years earlier. But that is all about to change when pretending to be a single dad so that he can date single mums he meets Marcus (Nicholas Hoult - Warm Bodies) a nerdy young boy who thanks to his hippyish mother Fiona (Toni Collette - Changing Lanes) is the butt of playground jokes and bullying. Although Will is happy to be his own island he slowly warms to Marcus and through their rather strange friendship they change each others lives as Will discovers his insular life is in fact rather shallow.
Adapted from Nick Hornby's book, "About a Boy" comes across as a double coming of age movie with Will and Marcus meeting each other and through their innocent friendship end up teaching each other important life changing lessons. We watch as Will goes from his self absorbed, insular life, an admitted island where being an island is not deemed normal to someone who is more accepting that no man is an island. At the same time we watch Marcus, your child loser dressed up in awful clothes thanks to his single mother's hippy like life style go from unconfident to slightly more confident. It's a fun journey, embellishing reality to comical extremes although as someone who loves his island I don't fully agree with the sentiment.
The reason why "About a Boy" is such a good movie is that directors Chris and Paul Weitz approach the material in a light hearted manner. So although there is a constant message about embracing life it's always done with a sense of comedy, often though some brilliantly scripted inner monologues which pep up scenes of almost normality. But quite brilliantly it restrains itself going for obvious gags, instead delivering something simple as Will living his life in 30 minutes unit, including units of watching Countdown and playing snooker for exercise. Although there are some priceless gags including the dead duck scene, classic comedy brilliantly executed with perfect timing and witty dialogue.
As already mentioned I've never been a huge fan of Hugh Grant movies, I grew tired of the same shtick he did no matter what character he was playing, but in "About a Boy" he shows that he is more capable than just mumbling his way through a movie. It sort of feels like with Will he is playing an extension of himself, the bachelor who enjoys dating women although long term commitment and babies would encroach on the life style he has built for himself. As such there is almost a sense of self depreciating humour as Will falls foul of his caddish behaviour and womanizing lies, whilst feels threatened when his island is under attack from friendship. Whilst Hugh Grant is the star of "About a Boy" the then young Nicholas Hoult holds his own delivering a strong performance as Marcus. And Toni Collette as well as Rachel Weisz adds to the movies pedigree delivering splendid characters.
What this all boils down to is that "About a Boy" is a thoroughly good British comedy. It's not the greatest of storylines but the direction and clever writing turn the unoriginal coming of age tale into something full of fun. And with good performances from Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult as well as Toni Collette it never has a dull moment with some splendid inner monologues injecting humour as the storyline occasionally wavers.
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