About A Boy (2002) Directed by Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz
Nick Hornby, Badly Drawn Boy, Hugh Grant. How time flies. In recent history these people were considered (in some circles) hot. Newsworthy, a touch of the zeitgeist even. Can any of them get arrested nowadays (no pun intended Hugh Grant)? I dont mean that in the sense that they don't possess certain virtues still, but ten years is a long time, especially if you're trying to maintain your cultural relevance. Never liked Hornby, bloody Arsenal fan and the only book of his I read was shit. Grudgingly, he did fall for my favourite writer Richard Yates, so I partially forgive him for being rubbish. I was a huge Badly Drawn Boy fan, but it's not long after About A Boy came out that his qualities became erratic. I did see him play in Austin once, one of the only words he uttered to the audience (other than slagging his band off) was how ugly Austin girls were. Endearing. Hugh Grant is a different proposition, as he's probably only a movie away from regaining his popularity. I think Britain should anoint him with the title 'National Treasure' and be done with it. He's starred in that masterpiece Love Actually (the one where he plays the Prime Minister and kops off with Tiffany from Eastenders) and that should be enough to cement his reputation for ever. About A Boy is actually a great advert for all those involved.
Grant plays more of a down-to-earth human in About A Boy (rather than the upper class twit type), but still manages to ooze that kind of sexy charm reserved for decadent types. He's very good here. It's probably his realest role where there aren't any cheap laughs. But watching About A Boy now it's clear that the filmmakers were trying to trendy Grant up, clothing him in ultra casual wear. If anything dates About A Boy, it Grant's wardrobe. Possible romantic interest is supplied by the rather excellent pairing of Toni Collette and Rachel Weisz. Stealing the acting honors from under everyone's noses is the boy, Marcus played by Nicholas Hoult. The reason About A Boy still works is the relationship between Grant's selfish layabout Will and Marcus is never portrayed as condescending to the audience. Much of the credit must go to the screenplay by Peter Hedges, which moves this odd couple relationship to the beat of being sprightly and refreshing.
About A Boy still holds up, much better than its creators do today. Silent Sigh by Badly Drawn Boy still sounds imperious (a definite high point in the career of the serial wooly hat wearer). The film manages to avoid any of the references Hornby makes in his book to Kurt Cobain, which I think was a wise move from the directors. Yes, Grant shines. Everyone is a winner. It's not a great film, but About A Boy is a good film. Some days good is enough.
I remember watching About A Boy when it was released probably some time in 2003 at the mature age of 21. I found it rather hard to relate to the boy looking for a father figure and also difficult to care for the rich, selfish and bored man played by Hugh Grant. Tony Colette's suicidal mother was my definite favorite at the time although I also found her embarrassing and overwhelming. I also found Badly Drawn Boy's music annoyingly repetitive during the movie. In 2013 some of these feelings have changed.
I still did not care for the annoyingly perky film score so much, which is kind of weird because I like Badly Drawn Boy (or do I?). I really dislike Nick Hornby and this is a film based on another one of his books, so there you go... That's something I didn't think I could say out loud when I was 21. I don't think it even crossed my mind that I don't have to like this movie. I'm just not interested in the scenarios that Hornby so loves to depict. I cannot stand High Fidelity, the book or the movie. Anyway, this time around I found myself drawn to the boy character of the movie. His acting was good and his character had a genuine lostness which I watched in dread. I had left the mama spectacles on this time. Also. Hugh Grant wasn't all that offensive. He was pathetic in a funny way. I still don't get why anyone would go around telling everybody they 'do nothing' for a living. It didn't seem believable, just shallow. But that's Nick Hornby again.
This time around we watched About A Boy together with the 12-year-old. I was thankful for the subtle and not-too-showy way the film handled a parent's depression and her suicide attempt. I thought it was real enough for a pre-teen to get a feeling and be touched, but hopeful enough for her to handle the heavy subject matter. About A Boy is a good movie to watch with an older child. It's not my favorite Hugh Grant piece and I would rather be watching Bidget Jones if it's from the same makers as the poster promises...But somehow the film is too beige, it's too even and too bland. I'm dreaming of a new cozy and soft grey sofa for our home – I wonder if it'll be too boring for my taste in the end.