Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz. UK. 2002.
I was wrong.
Will, a 30-something bachelor is quite content with his life. As he is living off the royalties of someone else’s work he manages to fill his days by watching TV, shopping for new clothes, gizmos, and CD’s, and having one relationship after another. Basically, he doesn't have to worry about any of his financial upkeep, something that not many people can say they are accustomed to. After alienating what seems like every woman in England, he starts in on a search for a different type of girl; single mothers. On his quest to impress he invents a son, and starts attending meetings of a single parent support group. Through taking one of the members out on a date Will meets Marcus; a 12 year old with more maturity than he, who discovers his ruse.
Only a man with the charm of Hugh Grant (Extreme Measures, Notting Hill) could have taken the role of this self centred man in metamorphosis and made him likeable. Grant not only makes him the picture of why some are paranoid when starting new relationships, but also makes him the embodiment of someone that women would want to change. Grant’s comic timing is impeccable, and the level of depth given to his role admirable, for he makes you take a closer look at Will, wondering if maybe keeping everyone at bay is just out of a fear that no one will like him if they get close. A lovely job.
Either writer Nick Hornby is a single parent himself, or is friends with someone who is, for I can think of no other explanation for the perfect, if a bit extreme role of Fiona, Marcus’ mom (played by Toni Colette of Changing Lanes, and The Sixth Sense). Rather than making Fiona a superwoman, Colette allows Fiona to have problems, letting her be stressed and worried, along with being able to take pride in her son, and find joy in simply being with him. Single parents aren’t perfect, and the fact that Colette has let that element of Hornby’s character shine through onscreen makes her character feel 100% real to me.
Nicholas Hoult (The Fallen Curtain) does a wonderful job as the young Marcus. As is the danger with nearly every role written for a child, it could have fallen flat, but Hoult does quite well, making Marcus a kid who’s alarmingly precocious, with eyes that belay a life awareness far beyond his 12 years of experience. (To say nothing of the fact that he’s enveloped a child’s natural ability to ask “Why” overandoverandoverandoverandover into his personality.)
Above and beyond the fine acting in About A Boy I was quite impressed by the fact that although a number of single parents were represented in this film, every single one of those characters was treated with respect. It’s a tough job that I (along with a zillion others) try and do to the best of our abilities each and every day, and I have seen film upon film that paint single parents as people to be pitied. Not so here. There are no judgments, or victims to be found anywhere within the boundaries of this story.
Hornby is an incredible writer. His lines of
dialogue are so well constructed that were you
to pull a random group in off the street to
recite his work you would come away with a good
product. How wonderful to have actors of Grant’s
and Colette’s calibre to pump it into the
category of superb. If Star Wars Episode II
or Spider-man isn’t available at your
local cinema. I would highly recommend giving About
A Boy a watch. I will even recommend that
you go see it on purpose.
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