Published Dec 01, 2002The makers of "American Pie." The writer of "High Fidelity." Habitually-stuttering, Huckleberry Hound-eyed Hugh Grant. A study of shallow, materialistic existence brought to new depths by male bonding.
Performing your own surface-level gloss-over of these elements, you might expect this to showcase Grant nervously servicing an apple tart while Edward Norton and Brad Pitt duke it out in the background to the sounds of the Beta Band. Unfortunately, no. Rather, this is the cinematic treatment of emotionally-stunted man-child Will (Grant), a stone-hearted, self-imposed loner who ushers in a slew of nameless women into his snazzy apartment, his beloved "island" retreat. A tad restless with his unproductive days full of head-massages and TV (a one-hit-wonder of his father's ensured he never has to work a day in his life), Will one day discovers that a new species of female intrigues him more than any other: the single mother. In order to net a bird with a nest of chicks, he imaginatively creates a non-existent son at a support group. He nearly succeeds, though through a random series of events, he ends up with a surrogate son, instead (Marcus, an awkward adolescent outcast played by the refreshingly pudgy and bizarrely-eye-browed Nicholas Hoult). After a few cold rejection attempts, Will takes the boy under his wing, trying to reverse the damage done by his mum's (Toni Collette) well-intentioned yet unrealistic enforcement of individuality at all costs; Will doles out advice on how to win the hearts of fair young punk damsels, buys him Mystikal CDs, and adorns his feet with Skechers. As predicted from the first ten minutes, Marcus warms Will up enough to allow love into his life. Cue falling for attractive gal, floundering attempts at commitment, eventual success with gal through self-exploration, and you're done.
The nuances and insightful witticisms of Hornby's writing are what make his stories so special, so, fortunately, niblets of this are given in Grant's and Hoult's voiceovers. However, the humour, action-driven plot, and diverse music of "High Fidelity" is what added to its success, and "About A Boy" lacks intense forms of these elements. Somewhat stuck on a hamster wheel, the movie drives the same moralising point into the wood-chips over and over again. Yet despite the obvious repetition, "About A Boy" sinks under the skin and mesmerises even if you try to fight it; Grant's surprisingly convincing and amusing portrayal of the reluctant assaholic-cum-decent guy helps save the movie from oozing sap all over the theatre, and the sentiments expressed are eternal, universal, and simply true.
Oh, and the soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy is pretty decent, too.