Director: Chris & Paul Weitz
Starring: Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette
While not packing the emotionally-devastating punch of About Time or exhibiting Love Actually‘s perfection of storytelling, About a Boy still qualifies as a British drama from a romantic & moving sub-genre we’ve come to adore, and it earns the added respect for coming out before both films, a year & a half before Love Actually, to be specific, and sandwiched in between two other Hugh Grant features: Bridget Jones’s Diary and Two Weeks Notice. But those are more rom-coms, we don’t have to blame Hugh for those, and I digress, so back to About a Boy. I had forgotten just how wonderful it was until this most recent revisiting, and I’m glad I took the time to watch it again. It’s everything you could hope for from a style that audiences themselves created out of thin air, and hopefully inspired directors to continue making, because although we shed tears every time we watch, maybe we could all use a good cry.
Will literally does nothing. No job, no commitments, no family, no hobbies (other than watching TV); he just doesn’t do anything nor does he need anyone, and so far he’s gotten along just fine alone. No man is an island? Will begs to differ, he loves being single & free, and being rich & handsome doesn’t hurt either. He dates who he wants, floats from relationship to shallow relationships, spends his dead father’s money, plays billiards for exercise, and hates attachments. But growing older makes Will feel like something might be missing, and it just might be other people. While pretending to be a single parent so he can have sex with single moms, he meets an odd boy named Marcus who Will would imagine would be the last person he would begin to care about. But that’s how it happens sometimes, people enter our lives and affect us without our permission, that’s just the way it is, and both men, young & aging, will have to work their awkward way through this budding friendship, while trying to straighten out their own paths along the way.
This cast is great, this movie is great, and it really hasn’t changed a bit in 17 years. Hugh Grant was at his pinnacle around this time, he really could do no wrong, and his performance as the spoiled Will is dead on. This was Nicholas Hoult’s first film, other than something trashy he appeared in when he was really little, and although his career would take a while to take off (about 9 years really), this was the start. Toni Collette plays a depressed mother well, Rachel Weisz pops in for a bit, and they all do their part to make this British heartstring-puller something a bit more than that. It has substance and humor in turns, light and dark moments in smart order, and the directing pair always seem to know in what direction to steer their acting pair, nothing ever feels left to chance or accident. The music, the characters, the accents, the loneliness, the hope; About a Boy is about every single one of us, and we feel that by the end, which is exactly why this is an enduring film that, once seen, you won’t forget.
My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆