About A Boy

2002, Movie, PG-13, 112 mins


If sibling directors Paul and Chris Weitz, best known for the slapstick teen comedy AMERICAN PIE, were looking to establish themselves as more mature filmmakers, they succeeded handily with this adaptation of UK author Nick (High Fidelity) Hornby's 1998 novel of the same title. Working from their own excellent screenplay, co-written with Peter Hedges, they chronicle the belated coming-of-age of a very immature man who learns some important life lessons from a troubled young boy. Stylish, independently wealthy Londoner Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) has the financial security to do nothing but date indiscriminately, and discovers dating insecure single mothers allows him to ease in and out of relationships unscathed by drama. So he sets about meeting more of them at a single-parents group. Needless to say, one of the children he meets, Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), gets under his skin with a combination of boyish charm and an undeniable need to be loved. The film takes these two friends through experiences that are both hilarious and heartbreaking: Will buys Marcus some hip new trainers (Brit-speak for sneakers), but what can he do when the next day the kids at Marcus's rough school beat him up and steal them? Marcus's wreck of a mother, Fiona (Toni Collette), lonely and suicidal, doesn't quite know what to make of this oddball friendship. Fiona could easily be a pathetic drip, but Collette effectively evokes the desperation of a person who feels truly alone in the world. Bursting with (but not overburdened by) the pop culture references that are the trademark of both Hornby's fiction and the Weitz brothers' films, this wickedly funny and surprisingly sweet film may be the perfect star vehicle for Grant. He's full of piss and vinegar and has at long last set aside the wobbly, stammering persona best left at FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL. leave a comment --Tanya L. Edwards

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