A Movie You Might Have Missed: About a Boy (2002)

Reviewer: Scott Nehring

About a Boy Movie PosterShort Review: A rare creation: a Hugh Grant movie that doesn’t make me have reflux issues.

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Like any red-blooded American male, I have a natural distaste for  Hugh Grant. There is something about that quivering, underweight Brit which makes me search for the remote. Perhaps it is the mumbling line deliveries. Maybe it is his tenancy towards tepid, meaningless puff productions. You know you have a hollow resume when your dalliance with a whore is your most memorable career moment.

In a surprise move, when he wasn’t rutting with a prostitute, Grant managed to make a remarkable movie. About A Boy is shockingly good considering that this slab of vanilla is in the lead. To be honest, Grant does an outstanding job in this film and avoids many of his trademark irritating traits throughout the production. His lines are delivered in a clear, normal manner and he even ekes out  some actual emoting.

Will (Grant) is not a man as much as he is a complete waste of space. He has literally nothing to show for his life and is proud of the fact. Will is a clever bit of writing. Peter Hedges’ script does a fantastic job of establishing Will as a human vacuum.  His empty lifestyle is supported by his reaping the royalties of a insipid Christmas song he didn't write. Will’s life changes when he gets involved with a boy named Marcus. Marcus’ life is in turmoil due to his suicidal mother Fiona's (Toni Collette) depression. Marcus turns to Will for guidance. Will, Marcus and Fiona develop a strange but fascinating trio of dysfunction.

The cast is stellar in this film. Collette stands out as the ridiculously depressed Fiona. Keeping pace with her is Nicholas Hoult as Marcus. They, along with the hooker maven Hugh Grant, mix well with the deep characters they explore - what a delight to see.  Their success can be attributed to Peter Hedges’ insightful script. Hedges firmly defines his characters and allows them space to interact as themselves. This may not sound like much but it is rather rare.  Often writers establish basic perimeters for the characters and then play to those limits.  Hedges pushes his characters through their interactions and contrasting personalities.  This leads to the huge change Will makes towards the end of the movie not feeling forced (as it would in most films). Given the attention to character detail, Will's admittedly obvious transformation comes across as organic and meaningful.

The word meaningful is a good word for this film. The audience walks away from this movie having learned  a moral lesson. One does not live for him or herself. We only truly experience life when we live for others. A film that teaches a moral lesson without postmodern whimpering is extremely rare these days. I cannot recommend this film highly enough.

As far as Hugh Grant goes, he drifted back into his usual crud after this production. The last I had heard, he’s washing cars at the Playboy Mansion.

Related Reviews:
Toni Collette movies
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Mary and Max (2009)

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