|Pick of the Week|
Reviewed by Ivana Redwine
Tagline: "Growing up has nothing to do with age."
Length: 101 minutes
Hugh Grant stars in "About a Boy," a funny, satisfying movie that generally manages to avoid the clichés of most comedies. Based on the Nick Hornby novel, this low-keyed, entertaining film offers insight into the nature of friendship and family as they exist today. I really enjoyed watching this movie on DVD at home recently, and the DVD comes with quite a few bonus materials.
Will Lightman (Grant) is a shallow 38-year-old who has no surviving family and lives alone in a roomy, elegant London apartment. He's never had a job in his life because he lives well off the royalties from "Santa's Super Sleigh," a Christmas song his father wrote years ago. He's had lots of girlfriends, but he always dumps them within a few weeks.
Elsewhere in London there's a miserable 12-year-old misfit named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult). Marcus lives with his quirky single mother Fiona (Toni Collette). She feeds him Ancient Grains cereal for breakfast, bakes heavy bread that kills a duck by falling on it, and serves nut loaf with parsnip gravy for Christmas dinner. Fiona wears a thrift-shop wardrobe and suffers from bouts of suicidal depression.
Meanwhile, Will has a good time briefly dating a single mom named Angie and finds it easy to break with her. This leads him to a theory about dating single mothers: "Passionate sex. A lot of ego massage. And a guilt-free parting." He decides to meet more single moms and attends the support group Single Parents Alone Together (SPAT), where he poses as a single father with a two-year-old son.
Through SPAT, Will encounters the needy Marcus, who manages to work his way into Will's life. At first, Marcus hopes to match Will up with his mother, but they aren't attracted to each other. However, Will and Marcus gradually bond.
Both Will and Marcus are changed by their friendship, and their lives begin to go in new directions. Marcus befriends a girl at school and gains a measure of acceptance by a few other students. Will meets a single mom named Rachel (Rachel Wiesz) and for the first time in his life, he finds himself falling in love.
But the problems aren't over for either Will or Marcus. Will must deal with the fact that his relationship with Rachel is built on a lie, and Marcus must deal with his mother's continued bouts of depression. I like the way the movie comes to a climax when Marcus sings "Killing Me Softly" at a school show, and the filmmakers handle this sequence very differently from the way I expected they would.
The movie goes on to end at a point where at least temporarily all the main characters are better off than they were at the beginning. But what matters most is that Will and Marcus have learned important life lessons from each other.
I really enjoyed the dialogue in "About a Boy," and the mostly unfamiliar London locations are fun, too. The performances are strong, particularly those of Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, and Toni Collette. The movie is occasionally overly sentimental and often heavy-handed, and I would have enjoyed it even more if it had a lighter touch.
It's interesting that "About a Boy" was directed by the Weitz brothers, Chris and Paul. I think it's a far better film than their "American Pie," although the earlier movie has more belly laughs. But "About a Boy" is more sophisticated, and I found it much more satisfying.
The DVD has lots of special features, and I've listed them below. For my taste, the Weitz brothers spend too much time pointing out the obvious on the commentary track. It was fun to see and hear the complete lyrics for "Santa's Super Sleigh," the Christmas song that provides Will with his income. The "English to English Dictionary" is a worthwhile feature for Yanks who are not familiar with the uniquely British words and phrases used in the movie, and I have to admit there were two or three I didn't already know.
• Widescreen Anamorphic (2.35:1)
• Feature Commentary With Directors Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz
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