About A Boy (12)

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The View Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/04/2002

Four out of five stars
Running time: 90 mins

That rare beast, a decent British comedy, thanks largely to a terrific comic performance by Grant, coupled with the surprisingly effective touch of American Pie directors the Weitz brothers.

Sane and Rational filmgoers who agree that Notting Hill was a strong contender for the worst film of the 90s will be pleased to note the absence of the cloying hand of writer Richard Curtis in the adaptation of Nick Hornby’s About A Boy.

Instead the film is written and directed by the Weitz brothers (Paul and Chris), the directors of American Pie. It is also co-produced by Working Title (Four Weddings, Bridget Jones etc) and Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Productions – DeNiro even gets a producer’s credit.

It’s a strange choice on paper, but it pays off and the result is a decent British comedy, boasting a superb performance by Hugh Grant and a terrific soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy to boot.

Grant plays Will Freeman, a shallow, 38 year-old layabout slacker who doesn’t have to work, thanks to the royalties from a Christmas ditty penned by his deceased father. Instead he spends all his time shopping, listening to music, watching TV, getting his hair “carefully dishevelled” (Grant ditches his trademark floppy locks and it pays off) and dating a string of women, none of whom seem to interest him for very long.

However, when Will hits upon the idea of pursuing single mothers (rationalising that they won’t expect commitment), he suddenly finds himself with more than he bargained for when he meets 12 year old ‘weird kid’ Marcus (Nicholas Hoult, sporting a pudding-bowl haircut that ought to be made illegal).

The supporting performances are somewhat mixed – Toni Collette provides solid support as always, but Rachel Weisz is barely in it – despite being billed second she doesn’t even appear for over an hour.

Also, it has to be said that, although Nicholas Hoult certainly looks the part and is good on the voice-over, he isn’t quite good enough to handle some of the more dramatic scenes and often looks like he’s trying too hard. (It was perhaps unwise to include a scene where he wishes he were Haley Joel Osment, because the audience may feel the same way).

Luckily, it’s Grant’s performance that really makes the film. As well as opting for “different” hair, he has also ditched his ‘posh’ stammering accent that, pre-Bridget Jones was in danger of becoming his trademark.

Here, as in Bridget Jones, Grant proves that there’s more to him as a comic actor than a collection of vocal tics and physical gestures and, crucially, he isn’t afraid to appear unsympathetic at times, meaning that he can get away with superbly-timed lines such as this: (After Marcus’ mother has attempted suicide) “It was horrible…but driving fast behind the ambulance was fantastic!”

The script is extremely sharp, although just occasionally there is too much reliance on the voice-over – so much so that it seems like Grant and Hoult are just reading aloud from Hornby’s novel.

Still, there are plenty of good lines and an inspired musical finale that will leave you grinning from ear-to-ear. The film also boasts a superb soundtrack, specially composed by Badly Drawn Boy to complement the film, rather than relying on the usual collection of pop hits.

In short, About A Boy is an enjoyable British comedy with some great lines and a terrific central performance from Hugh Grant. Recommended.

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About A Boy (12)
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Content updated: 26/09/2015 12:51

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