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Review: About a Boy

Is Will or Marcus the film’s titular boy? Such nuance.

About a Boy
Photo: Universal Pictures

“Britain is hot right now,” a friend informed me this past weekend. She put on a faux British accent worse than Madonna’s, coaxing a bouncer at an NYC club to grant us entry into the VIP room. We were given a round of drinks, a tour, and meeting with the manager. Well, what’s hot in merry ol’ England right now is About a Boy. What can I say, Hugh Grant looks better than ever. He’s got charm and an adorable new haircut—or, perhaps, it’s just that accent that makes me swoon time and time again.

Chris and Paul Weitz’s film tells the tale of a perpetually single, self-absorbed bloke named Will Freeman (Grant), who lives off the royalties of a Christmas song (“Santa’s Super Sleigh”) written by his deceased father. Dividing his day up into half-hour time slots called “units,” Will’s sole life goal is to get a little action for his, um, unit. He falls into a relationship with a single mother and comes to find that this particular breed of woman is generally desperate and simpler to dump. Going so far as to thrust a crumpled bag of potato chips onto a baby seat in his car, Will creates a fictitious two-year-old son for himself and starts attending a single-parent meeting amusingly titled SPAT (Single Parents, Alone Together).

Through proud SPAT member Susie (Victoria Smurfit) he inadvertently meets awkward little Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), now poised to change Will’s life forever. Marcus finds out about Will’s imaginary child and blackmails him into hanging out with him. The initial plan: to form a love connection with Will and his mum. Conniving little fellow, huh? Marcus’s suicidal mother, Fiona (Toni Collette), is clueless when it comes to her son’s life, obliviously causing the tyke adult-like stress; he’s picked on by classmates for inexplicably breaking into song and for sporting hippie-grunge-prep couture. Will bonds with Marcus, helps the boy build confidence, and by letting the boy into his life, puts an ax to the selfish Will Freeman Show.

Enter simultaneous love interests in the form of the scary little Ellie and the magnetic Rachel (Rachel Weisz), with her own devil child in tow. In the end, everyone comes together to form one sick, extended family. About a Boy is whimsically enchanting, with clever performances from Grant and Holt. Kudos to Ms. Collette for bringing cheer to depression and suicide. One question remains: Is Will or Marcus the film’s titular boy? Such nuance.

Cast: Hugh Grant, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz, Isabel Brook, Sharon Small, Victoria Smurfit, Nicholas Hoult, Nicholas Hutchison, Peter McNicholl, Ben Ridgeway Director: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz Screenwriter: Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz Distributor: Universal Pictures Running Time: 100 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2002 Buy: Video, Soundtrack, Book

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