26 June 2002 | Aidan McGuinness
Hugh Grant in non-annoying role shock! And he's quite funny too
`About a Boy' was being touted as a great make over for Hugh Grant
and it is. Gone is his infamous bumbling English fop role, his fluffy hair lost to a sharp, more stylish cut. Here he plays a rich selfish layabout, Will, who cruises through life on the royalties from a song his deceased father penned years ago. He finds a great way to meet women who don't want to get involved through a single mother's group which is where he meets the strange twelve year old boy Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), who lives with his depressed, suicidal mother Fiona (Toni Collette). A tragic event sees Marcus seeking comfort with the indifferent Will who begins to realise that there's more to life than sitting around at home all day.
Hugh Grant is on peak form here he sheds his old roles for that of a fresher, younger man. He is able to convey charm and selfishness not just through words, but also through his mannerisms. He even conveys genuine affable warmth later on in the movie, without making my teeth grate
Equally impressive is Toni Collette as Marcus' sad mother. Her character has a tragic feeling to it, a real sense of world-weariness conveyed in a great combination of makeup and acting. The real star of the movie for me- is Nicholas Hoult as the young boy who helps Will come to realizations about his life. He doesn't get by on cute good looks, like far too many kid actors, because he can actually act from the innocence of a child (when he tries to get his mother and Will together), to the simplistic musings of children who can't understand why some people hurt (such as his mother). Like Osment (whom he amusing compares himself to), Hoult shows that child actors are just as, if not more so, capable as their elders.
The script of the movie is witty, without being outright hilarious. It's what you come to expect of the British comedy market (the weak `Ali G indahouse' aside). It being a British comedy you can predict where it's going to go and there are relatively few surprises along the way. Having said that the characters are sketched strongly enough, and the humour at a high enough level, that you'll be more than entertained along the way.
It's surprising to see that this movie was directed by the `American Pie' Weitz brothers, because they bring a thoughtful, contemplative air to the movie, while never getting bogged down in pointless camera techniques the most we're left with is some simple screen wipes. They've also chosen well by having Badly Drawn Boy compose the whole soundtrack as it works very well with the film's tone.
There's nothing outstanding in `About a Boy' but what's here is done surprisingly well. It's a nice movie that's quite enjoyable for relaxing to some evening. A 7/10 seems just.