Tuesday, August 12, 2008

About a Boy (2002)

About a Boy, Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult
About A Boy stars Hugh Grant1 as a laze-about bachelor living off the royalties of a song his father had written. He sees himself as an island unto himself, a prospect made possible by the conveniences of modern life. His life is turned upside down when he meets the titular boy, played by Nicholas Hoult.

In many ways, Grant and Hoult's relationship is a juxtaposition of opposites. Grant is a wealthy 38 year-old man with no attachments to the world, and spends most of his life trying to seduce women--an activity in which we gather he's rather successful. Hoult, on the other hand, is the picture of awkwardness. His only true relationship is with his depressive and somewhat eccentric mother--played by the incomparable Toni Collette2. While Grant tries to distance himself from real ties in life, Hoult wants nothing more than a true friend and to make his mother happy.

Hugh Grant, Island unto itself, About a Boy
On the surface, this film has a plot that has been done time and again, the person who wants nothing to do with children finds their life turned around by having a child forced into their life. What saves this film for me is its exceptional cast. Rather than the bumbling love interest that marked most of Grant's career, Grant plays a smooth operator who we look forward to seeing change. And unlike most relationships between an adult and child, their relationship is met with some suspicion--after all, what sort of 38 year-old man wants to hang out with a 12 year-old boy?

Though it contains tones of sadness and bitterness, in the end, this movie's message is that even in a modern age, John Donne is correct, “No man is an island, entire of itself...”3 And while a DVD collection can be complete without this film, I find myself enjoying it whenever I'm feeling a little down and in the need for something heartwarming.

Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult, About a Boy
Will: I find the key is to think of a day as units of time, each unit consisting of no more than thirty minutes. Full hours can be a little bit intimidating and most activities take about half an hour. Taking a bath: one unit, watching Countdown: one unit, web-based research: two units, exercising: three units, having my hair carefully disheveled: four units. It's amazing how the day fills up, and I often wonder, to be absolutely honest, if I'd ever have time for a job; how do people cram them in?

Notes:
1. More Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
2. More on Toni Collette when I cover Connie & Carla and Muriel's Wedding.
3. “...every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” [Full text.]

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