Reviewed by: Halyna Barannik
Starring: Hugh Grant, Rachel Weisz, Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult, Isabel Brook | Directed by: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz | Produced by: Jane Rosenthal, Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan, Robert De Niro, Brad Epstein | Written by: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz, Peter Hedges | Distributor: Universal Pictures
“About A Boy” is a movie about Willy (Hugh Grant), a bloke (British for “guy”) who lives off the royalties of a successful song his father wrote. He is an odd man, charming and witty and somewhat self-effacing, but without any moral scruples at all. Pushing 40, he looks to women for fun only, with no intention of ever marrying. He targets single mothers because they might be easy prey.
Along the way he meets Marcus, the son of a depressive/suicidal mother, played deftly by Toni Colette (“The Sixth Sense”). The boy finds some kind of comfort in visiting Willy, a father figure to whom he has taken a strong liking. At first resistant to the companionship of a child, Will adjusts to Marcus, as the boy, vulnerable and lonely, grows on him and taps into his deeply buried conscience.
It is the relationship between Will and Marcus that has elicited positive reviews for this movie. But the theme of a helpful friendship that stimulates deeper feelings in a guy who has always been unabashedly shallow is somehow muddied by other thematic elements, like the bullies at Marcus’ school who are inordinately cruel and cutting (are all the British kids like this?) and the women who linger around Will on the periphery. And then there is Rachel, whom he meets at a party and actually finds interesting and alluring but doesn’t know how to get her, or his own selfish attitude toward life. Although I found myself rooting for Will to become a better person, and at the end he seems to have found a sense of responsibility, the many themes made the movie a little too dense, too crowded, and that insufferable British mumbling of words that make you want to ask your neighbor “what did he say?” didn’t help.
This movie will appeal to movie afficianados and to those who find Hugh Grant “cute,” which he is, in a snotty and roguish kind of way.
In terms of Christian values, Marcus and his love for his mother soften the worldly quirkiness of this movie, but at the end, even Marcus becomes worldly, emulating the very bullies who have hurt him so much. All in all, an enjoyable film, but not exceptional by any means.
This latest of Hugh Grant’s films has been overall well-reviewed by critics, but my eager anticipation was in the end disappointed.
Year of Release—2002