Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Two Boys Grow Up

About a Boy

Directed by Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
Written by Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
★ Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz


I have the feeling it's not only me who is tired of seeing all these absolutely current-treasure-y super positive reviews on my blog, and that's why today, I'm going to write about a film that I liked.

A film that made me smile almost all the time, but never made me feel, "God, this is awesome!". Perhaps the reason for my reaction is that I had already read the ingenious book by one of my favourite authors, Nick Hornby, and there was no way to top that. Or perhaps it was just... well "just" a good film.
But this is not a bad thing, and actually there's almost nothing bad I can say about About a Boy. It had humour, an interesting narration, a good story (obviously) and a good soundtrack. It was good.
Sometimes I wonder what it is, that makes some movies great, and others good. I thought it might be predictability that would "spoil" a movie, as I already knew most of the plot of this movie (it felt as if only one scene had been changed from the book). But then again, why would people - including me - re-watch films then?
Today I've come to the conclusion that it's sheerly impossible to put a finger on that particular, I don't want to say "x-factor"... let's say, "factor of awesomeness". You can't explain why and how the strawberry explodes, and why it doesn't - all you know is that it does, in some films.

I had been wanting to watch this movie for a long time, as a good friend who knows my movie taste very well, recommended it to quite a while ago. No matter how many great reviews and lists and whatever I read online or in magazines, a friend's recommendation will always count most when it comes to my imaginary watch list (I do have a real IMDB one too though).
What my friend and I have in common (aside from many other things) is that we've seen a whole lot of Hugh Grant films some time, coincidentally. They are on TV quite often around these parts. While our opinions on Four Weddings and a Funeral differ - I like it, she doesn't - we otherwise agree that Hugh Grant has been in some pretty bad films. So that's why she recommended About a Boy to me, stating that it was the best of Grant's performances she has ever seen.
To be honest, my expectations were fully satisfied. Hugh Grant was the perfect actor to fit this particular character, and actually I already had him in mind reading the book. Of course, a great actor isn't one who fits a character perfect, but one that would fit almost any character and make it his. However, I think we can say that Hugh Grant is after all at least a decent actor. He might  be doing the same thing now for years, but he isn't exactly doing it badly.

What's more, I really like the character Will. I can really relate to him. Who knows, if I'd been in his place, maybe I'd have turned out just the way he turned out - never working, just watching movies and listening to music. Surely, at some point I would have realized that there was no meaning in my life, just like Will does at some point in the movie. But then again, what is meaning?
Is meaning work? Relationships, friends, I guess we could agree on that. And that's what both Will and Marcus find out in the film. But there's still a kind of ambiguity in the film's ending - just like the two main characters and narrators are very different from each other, both in the beginning and in the end.
While Will's motto in a way remains "Every man is an island", Marcus sticks to his believing that "No man is an island". Which is true? Both?
Whatever the answer might be, I think it's a wonderful ending. It points back at the beginning, and at the same time to a new direction, a change, or at least another way of thinking.

This example already shows the film's biggest strength, namely containing the book's split narrative, which works as both a factor of entertainment and a factor of insight. Also, you might have noticed the different musical themes that change when the other narrator takes over. I really like those small details, which make the film a good one instead of a decent one.
Another thing that makes the film stand out from typical comedies of the kind, are the supporting actors, whereby I'm especially talking about Toni Collette. Her appearance is just so convincing, and I know because I grew up among people like her. Not that my mom is as extreme as her (she's neither a vegetarian nor depressive), but the overall ideology or whatever resembles the one I grew up with.
However, my personal experiences were never as crass as Marcus', who is literally forced to wear wooly sweaters and ugly brown shoes. I really felt with him though.
And while we're talking about Marcus; Nicholas Hoult is wonderful. A wonderful child actor. Every time I saw a great child actor I think they must be so talented, because most children are so bad at acting - although most love it. And I also feel pity for them, because it must be hard to grow up being famous and working all the time. It's not as hard when you're from British film as when you're from Hollywood I think, nevertheless I'm happy and relieved that Hoult has turned out to be a good actor indeed, and although (or maybe because) he hasn't been in many movies since About a Boy, he proves that he's got it for good. Admittedly, I've only seen him in A Single Man apart from this one, but I thought he was good in that.

So, next time you need some light but junk-less entertainment, you should opt for About a Boy. It works as a good comedy, but also gives some food for thought, which in my opinion makes it the perfect filler in between classics and more demanding films.

The final word


  1. Oh I adore this film. And the book, though someone stole that.
    I think it's Grant's best performance too, and he is definitely perfectly cast here. I relate to Will on many levels too. I absolutely love that ending, with the song.

    Hoult is awesome. One of my most favourite scenes is when he walks down the corridor singing "Shake Yo Ass". Best thing ever.

    1. Loved that scene too.
      I don't really understand what you mean by someone stole the book?

      Anyhow, great to see some love for the film. I think it was quite successful at its time, but not anymore really. Nick Hornby adapted films are always great, my favourite is Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (need to read the book too).

    2. Oh no it was just a fact. I had the book, someone stole it :(

      Nick and Norah is David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. High Fidelity is by Hornby... that's the only other one I have read.

    3. Oh, that's a pity.

      Haha, I was sure that Nick and Norah was from Hornby, it does resemble his style... I haven't read or seen High Fidelity yet, sadly.

  2. Great review :) Like Lost in Translation, I watched this one when I was very young and didn't fully comprehend it in order to enjoy it. I should watch it again soon.

  3. Thank you fernandorafael!
    I think it even happens that you re-watch a film you've seen just one or two years ago and notice layers that you didn't notice before - it's always a great experience. Hope you'll re-watch this one.

  4. Huge Hornby fan, myself. Loved the book, and the movie. I could totally relate to both the characters - adolescent despair at Cobain's death, and the adult's reluctance to grow up, both extremely familiar territory.

    I really like Hugh Grant- but I wasn't too sure how he'd pull this off because I take my Hornby-loving personally! Turned out to be an inspired casting decision, great job.

    1. Who doesn't love Hornby?
      I think that's what makes this movie so interesting, that we can relate to both character at both the beginning and the ending.

      I also like Hugh Grant, but I think he doesn't always choose his roles too wisely.


Let the discussion begin!