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About a Boy [DVD] [2002] – Bargain Discount

About a Boy [DVD] [2002]

Hugh Grant takes the lead role as aimless, commitment-shy, thirtysomething Will in this adaptation of Nick Hornby’s bestseller. Living on the royalties of a hit song his father wrote 40 years ago, Will drifts through life, moving from one relationship to the next with little lasting effect. But when he hits upon the new idea of dating single-mothers, he soon finds himself entangled with the suicidal Fiona (Toni Colette) and her 12-year-old-son Marcus (Nicholas Hoult). As he and Marcus gradually develop a friendship, Will begins to reassess the selfish life he has been living.

The film version of Nick Hornby’s novel About a Boy takes a deeper though no less entertaining approach than the easy laughs of Fever Pitch and High Fidelity. The “coming together” of idle playboy Will (Hugh Grant) and put-upon loner Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) is a revealing tale of self-understanding and role reversal. Will finds that being yourself is of little consequence without a defining human context, while Marcus finds that pleasing others counts for little without a degree of self-confidence. How they arrive at this complementary awareness is the intriguing subject matter of the film, involving well-meaning single mothers, difficult adolescents and helpless older adults. Yet there’s a wider significance to all this in the guise of human stereotypes–how we fall into them and how we can try to get out of them.

The film’s wit and amusement comes down to deft and understated directing from Chris and Paul Weitz, and a snappily crafted screenplay from Peter Hedges and the Weitz brothers. Grant clips his hair as well as his vowels for a believable and ultimately sympathetic Will–by far his best performance since Four Weddings and a Funeral. As Marcus, Hoult is convincingly self-dependent, but could have been even more self-absorbed. Toni Colette is a dead-ringer for the well-meaning but ineffectual hippie mother Fiona, while Rachel Weisz gives her best screen performance to date as the attractive and vulnerable Rachel, with whom Will comes of age emotionally. Badly Drawn Boy’s soundtrack will delight those who enjoy his brand of reconstituted 1970s Dylan; the title track has a wistful charm and there’s a gem of an instrumental in the “Countdown” sequence. About a Boy is in the best traditions of British comedy: enlightening as it amuses, it’s a film to enjoy and come back to. —Richard Whitehouse

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