Hugh Grant ditches his floppy hair in his latest film, “About A Boy,” based on the novel by Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity”). Directed by the Weitz brothers, whose previous contributions to the world of hilm includes “American Pie,” “About A Boy” is filled with some great comedy and greater drama.
Grant plays Will: a shallow, womanizing, materialistic man who lives off the royalties of his father’s one hit wonder “Santa’s Super Sleigh.” Having never worked a day in his life he spends his days watching T.V., buying things and playing pool. Soon after a breakup with a single mother, he invents a son named “Ned” and attends single parent meetings in the hopes to pick up more unsuspecting prey.
Playing alongside Grant is Nicholas Hoult as Marcus, a young schoolboy who is constantly outcast by his classmates. Marcus is sweet and innocent, but wise beyond his years due to his troubled home life. It is when Will, Marcus and another parent discover Marcus’s mom’s (T attempted suicide that the young boy decides he needs someone else in his life besides his mom. Marcus begins to visit Will persistently until they are forced to become friends.
What is interesting in “About A Boy” is that the film retains these two central protagonists – never choosing to focus entirely on one of them, but developing them together and drawing comparisons between their lives. Will helps Marcus to gain the acceptance of his classmates by opening the world that his mother shut out to him -one that includes cool sneakers and rap music. Marcus in turn helps Will realize the value of human companionship and points out the dangers of isolation. Will is isolated by choice while Marcus struggles for acceptance from his classmates. Both characters are “boys” – it is just that Will is technically older than Marcus.
With Hugh Grant a viewer expects some type of romantic comedy, but in this film’s case one gets more of a drama centering on friendship and the importance of family. The film works to serve these ends well; however, it is the way in which the film chooses to flow (the parallel development between Will and Marcus) that is also its major flaw. This constant ebb and flow of actions can be cause for frustration as the viewer has to keep changing their focus and the result is that sometimes the film seems ill paced. Aside from this, the acting and camerawork are first rate. Grant and Hoult are believable and their actions are compelling. The Weitz brothers have done a great job with the daunting task of choosing how to shoot this film and keep it visually interesting throughout.
About A Boy should definitely be put on anyone’s must see list for this summer if only to serve as a break from the many action films slated to come out in the following months.