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About A Boy

return of the mack

Author Nick Hornby has cornered the market on writing about despicable yet likable white guys. Immature, self-absorbed men with major emotional problems like the inability to communicate with anyone else but themselves. Hand them a sign that says "The End is Near" and they could instantly turn into your average neighborhood weirdo. But Hornby's too smart for that and so are the characters he creates. In About A Boy, you are introduced to the paradisial life of Will Freeman (Hugh Grant).

Will is a hip and happening bachelor- an über bachelor. He goes through women like tissues, wears designer clothing, drives a sleek sports car and — to top it all off — doesn't work. Indeed, the state of his work life is a comedic motif throughout the film. He'll meet someone, always a good-looking woman, and inevitably THE question will pop up, "So, what do you do?" And the reply, "Nothing." There are two whole scenes built upon this very conversation. Hornby's usual dry, at times self-effacing, wit makes them brilliant.

However, the movie is less about Will's relationship with women than it is about his relationship with a twelve year-old boy named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult). Marcus is an awkward kid with no social skills who wears corduroy pants and sweaters with rainbows sewn on them (translation: walking around the school yard with a kick me sign on your back). His insane single-mother Fiona (Toni Collete, whose roles just get better and better) is the crux of a lot of his problems. Will provides Marcus with a father figure and Marcus provides Will with a sense of responsibility and goodness. The two are an unlikely match that end up being an endearing, funny duo. If this were a Hollywood movie, this relationship would have melted into a sappy mess sodden with melodrama; however, this British comedy treats it with wit, subtlety and class.

This is the best acting job that Hugh Grant has pulled off since Four Weddings and a Funeral; in fact, it's better. He delivers his lines perfectly and he balances his "I'm a blubbering idiot" spiel with an edgy sarcasm. Toni Collete is amazing, she practically steals the show. Nicholas Hoult, though, is the real star. For such a young actor he manages to be charming without seeming like a overly-mature robot wise beyond his years (like LeeLee Sobieski — she's so put together it's eerie) and annoying without wanting him to be killed off or put into child care custody and shipped off into another movie.

The narration was bit overwhelming at times; like someone talking to you while you're trying to watch TV. Will thought out loud and talked to the audience so often that you wanted to tell the character to shut up so you could hear what was actually happening. But, as it was based on a book, there was a lot of inner dialogue that needed to be portrayed to the audience. Sometimes it was annoying but at other times it was hilarious. It transformed certain scenes from "funny" into "freakin' hilarious". In one of the two stand-out scenes (both include the song "Killing Me Softly" and horrible singing) when Will sits politely — as his mind is about to explode — and listens to Marcus and his mother sing a battered rendition of the classic tune.

If you are a fan of High Fidelity, you'll be able to trace several parallels between the two main characters. Will is very similar to Rob Gordon. Of course, both talk to themselves a lot and both also have female problems and are immature men who need to grow up. But About A Boy delves deeper; it examines the emotional growth of a very selfish person in a way that High Fidelity does not. The results are all the more funny and engaging.


About A Boy
1 hour 45 minutes

Hugh Grant
Rachel Weisz
Toni Collette
Nicholas Hoult
Isabel Brook