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About a Boy (2002)
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Review Date: May 15, 2002
Director: Chris & Paul Weitz
Writer: Chris & Paul Weitz
Producers: Robert DeNiro, Jane Rosenthal, Tim Bevan
Actors:
Hugh Grant
Nicholas Hault
Toni Collette
Plot:
A rich, hip British dude with an inheritance doesn't do much in his life, but seems to like it that way. He spends most of his time pampering himself, and it isn't until he comes up with the brilliant idea of picking up single moms, that his life begins to change (and gain more meaning?), as he strikes up an odd type of relationship with a seemingly nerdy 12-year old boy. Which one of the two needs the more maturing? Find out...
Critique:
This movie is a great companion piece to one of my favorite films from last year, starring the always charming Rene Zellweger, BRIDGET JONES' DIARY. In fact, this might be a bold statement, but I would go as far as to say that if that film and cinematic fare like FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL tickle your fancy (I consider mine tickled), this baby is prime for your attention. Unfortunately, "attention" is one thing that this poor lass might be lacking, being as it's the only film opening wide against the massively hyped and popular, ATTACK OF THE CLONES this coming weekend. But let's forget about that for a sec, and allow me to tell you what I liked so much about this movie. First and foremost, as with most films...it's the writing. The script here is a surprisingly potent blend of humor and drama, with laughs starting the movie off with many (and I mean, many!) funny moments featuring Hugh Grant acting like an ass and trying to pick up women, interwoven with the more serious end of the film's coin, featuring a young, British kid's lack of a real sane adult in his life. In one of the more original ways to get people to meet on-screen, Grant ultimately falls into the life of this young, impressionable boy, and with time, patience and a respectively mutual need, they ultimately start to connect and learn from one another (and yes, the jury is still out as to who actually learns more-the 38-year old man or the 12-year old kid).

The film is based on the novel by Nick Hornby, the man behind the critically acclaimed HIGH FIDELITY a couple of years ago, the producers of DIARY and would you believe...the two brothers responsible for AMERICAN PIE? (Chris and Paul Weitz) What makes that last fact even more surprising is that this film is filled with lots of clever humor, a lot of adult themes and yes...no gross-out jokes for miles! The brothers also do a great job with the directing end of their gig, with a quirky feel whenever the film was in need of it, and a graceful manner in the more dramatic sequences (and you gotta admire anyone who can work a serious topic like suicide into this generally lighter movie and make it work). But enough about the story, which was both engaging and sweet, and allow me to send out some more props to both Grant and the surprisingly solid child actor in this film, Nicholas Hault. The chemistry between the two is both clear and endearing, and Grant seems to have not only matured as an actor with this film (he's always been funny to me-- every time he would tell someone what he does for a living ("nothing"), it just cracked me up), but he also seems to have lost his trademark stutter. The kid also isn't the typical precocious jerk that you find in most films, in fact, he is quite smart, but also adorable, mature beyond his years and pretty sensitive to boot.

I never thought that a film about an older man and a young kid would entice me as much as this one did, but I'll admit that I really wanted those two crazy bastards to get together in the end (not "get together" together, but you know what I mean!) Toni Collette was also strong in the film, which I appreciated even more since her character is actually quite deranged and could have been made to be a caricature. It's to her credit that she didn't make me hate her as much as I thought I might, from the type of mother that she is...on paper (the inside joke about Haley Joel Osment was also cute). The film's soundtrack is also agreeable, the minor appearance by Rachel Weisz is nice but more of her would have been even nicer, the message is sound and a relatable one for yours truly (yeah, I'm single and miserable, boys and girls), and overall, the film just worked and was a joy to watch. This isn't a movie for the "teen" demographic, so it might have been a decent move of counter-programming on the part of the studio execs pitting it up against Lucas' behemoth child, but I really do hope that it doesn't get lost in the shuffle. Not many movies come out every year that I can recommend through and through, and that can engage me from start to finish, with laughs, smiles, moments of frustration and tears, but ultimately, great entertainment, but this movie is definitely one of them.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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