About A Boy Review
After John Cusack and co 'Americanised' Nick Hornby's High Fidelity and made him a hot cinema property, the film deal for his next book was signed before Hornby had even completed it.
About A Boy tells of thirty-eight year old Will (Hugh Grant), a rich, purposefully shallow bachelor who has lived off the royalties of his father's one-hit-wonder songwriting for years; ensuring the lack of a need for him to ever find himself a career in anything. His best friends are worried about him, since he seems to be content to meander along in his life without desire of familial fulfilment. Will even turns down their request for him to be their daughter's godfather. Realising that single-parent women seem to have no wish to find new husbands, Will invents himself a son in order to join a SPAT group (Single Parents Alone Together) - solely for the aid of meeting single-mums he hopes will only seek short-term relationships with him. Whilst trying to pursue attractive single mum Suzie (Victoria Smurfit) on a picnic, Will is forced to have young teenager Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) tag along, as his mother Fiona (Toni Collette) is a friend of Suzie's and is feeling depressed and unwell. After a few bizarre incidents, Will and Suzie return Marcus home only to find Fiona has attempted suicide. Whilst Fiona is on the mend, Will and Marcus strike up an unlikely friendship, and Will starts to learn that there are things in life he has always been missing.
Considering how effective High Fidelity was as a quirky comedy/drama, with its sterling Stephen Frears directing, fantastic acting from John Cusack and Jack Black and successful transplantation of Hornby's story, About A Boy could, on paper, have been a disaster. Firstly, Hugh Grant was chosen as the star, and Grant is only ever moderately successful in roles which allow him to work up fantastic chemistry with his female co-stars, whereas About A Boy would involve him working mainly with a teenage boy. The directing team Chris and Paul Weitz assuredly handled the American Pie films, but can they direct mature adult comedies? Also, eclectic weirdo Badly Drawn Boy was brought in to handle the soundtrack, even though he only has one album to his belt.
Fortunately, every element of About A Boy marries together in a fantastic comedy drama that contains by far and away Hugh Grant's finest performance. Grant is funny, charming and leaves behind all trace of his pompous upper-class drivel that he launched himself with in films such as Four Weddings And A Funeral. Equally as good however, is young Nicholas Hoult as Marcus. Hoult makes it easy to understand why even such a shallow isolationist such as Will can let him inside his life, and he does this without pandering to Haley Joel Osment-esque cuddliness. The cast on the whole are very good, even Toni Collette's English accent, and the wasted Rachael Weisz. Badly Drawn Boy's soundtrack is a fantastic ensemble of jangly guitar work that gives the film its own sense of modern inventiveness, and the directing by the Wietz brothers is brilliant; they clearly know how to handle comedy whatever the form.
About A Boy is an even handed film that both men and women will love. It's not a one-sided women's film like Bridget Jones' Diary and it's more intelligent than most comedy offerings you'll see this year. Had it been released later on in 2002, it might have had a chance at a few Oscar nominations, but unfortunately it'll have been forgotten by then. Even so, About A Boy is a winning mix of comedy and drama that delivers the goods in each department.