Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz. UK. 2002.

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I tend to arrive at the movies early. I do so, not only so that I have lots of time to buy my tickets, and my popcorn (current price $4 per kernel) but also so that I can meander through the cinema looking at all the movie posters, trying to determine which ones will be good, and which drastically painful. As I passed theatre after theatre showing either Star Wars or Spider-man I have come to a conclusion: either nothing else is playing because every theatre in my local 18 theatre cinema is currently showing Star Wars Episode II or Spider-man so there’s no room to show anything else or every other studio Hollywood is convinced that everyone in every city will be able to get in to a showing of either (as both play 18 times a day) and so are leaving their releases to later. I had seen trailers for About A Boy at the local preview of Spider-man and perked up at the possibility of seeing that one. (Currently showing in theatre 18 next door to Star Wars and Spider-man.) The trailers boasted Hugh Grant, Toni Colette, and the incredible writing of Nick Hornby. As it was being released alongside of Lucas’ behemoth I was a little reticent to go. After all, if About A Boy was being displayed prominently as a feature to kill time with if you don’t have the patience to wait for Lucas’ or Raimi’s summer blockbusters, I was concerned as to it’s level of quality.

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

About A boy. All
                    Rights Reserved.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.

Nick 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. 

Jen Johnston
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