No Man is an Island (Film Review: “About A Boy”)

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A Valentine’s Day Weekend gem: About A Boy. An instant classic that just gets better with age, it’s Hugh Grant at the top of his game. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry . . . if you missed it the first time around, don’t make the same mistake twice!

SnapShot Plot

Based on the novel by Nick Hornby, About A Boy is as close to perfect as most films get, with memorable performances by Hugh Grant, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz and newcomer Nicholas Hoult (now an international heartthrob and veteran of countless films including the X Men franchise). Grant shines as Will Freeman (pun probably intended), a sophisticated singleton living alone in a hip London neighborhood, whose trust-fund-baby status means he’s never had to work for a living, ever. Rather than feeling out of step amidst the forward march of London life, Will smugly sees himself as a supremely cool dude, a breed apart, a solitary figure exempt from the confines and constraints of normal society. Will wears his isolation proudly, and life would probably have continued in perfect harmony if not for a peculiar and unhappy boy – whose single mother is debilitated by depression – who inserts himself into Will’s life.

Marcus Brewer is a bright, intelligent kid who’s being scapegoated by the bullies at school, yet in his own way he – like Will – wears his social outcast badge with honor. Marcus too sees himself as superior to most of the kids around him, and more importantly, will do anything to protect his mother, even if it means social suicide. Toni Collette brings to the role of Fiona Brewer such a superb mix of poignancy and irreverence that you find yourself simultaneously sympathizing with her psychological angst while at the same time thinking what a pain in the ass she can be. This frisson is author Nick Hornby’s calling card; it’s another thing entirely to translate it to the big screen and make it work. As Will finds himself immersed ever more deeply into the world of Marcus and Fiona, we can’t help but wonder if he has it in him to care enough to make a difference, or when he’ll grow tired of the sticky human drama and revert back to his happy hermetic lifestyle. In other words: Is inner change really possible, after all?

 

 

Parting Shot

Best-selling British author, Nick Hornby’s books have often been adapted to film, most notably Fever Pitch and High Fidelity. But with About A Boy the adaptation gets just about everything right. The script was nominated for an Oscar when the movie came out in 2002, and the exceptionally lyrical and witty original soundtrack by British singer/songwriter Badly Drawn Boy (aka Damon Michael Gough ) set the unsentimental yet emotionally resonant tone perfectly. Indeed the author himself has said how wonderful it was to simply leave the book in the hands of the directors and not to insert himself into the film’s production, even when they changed the ending of the novel significantly for the movie. Hornby actually stated that he felt the movie’s ending was superior to what he had written years earlier.

About A Boy was written and directed by brothers Chris and Paul Weitz (following their success with American Pie) and before the brothers’ solo careers produced movies/series such as In Good Company, American Dreamz, Little Fockers, Mozart in the Jungle, The Golden Compass, and The Twilight Saga: New Moon.

This is one of those unforgettably delightful films that transcends genres and demographics, serving up a satisfying meal of equal parts Comedy and Sentiment, the flavors in perfect balance with each other. You’ll leave completely satisfied but ready for another helping every now and again, its that delicious.

About A Boy is presently streaming on Netflix.

Norma’s Streaming Picks is proud to announce squatters’ rights on a fantastic site for Baby Boomers, Midcentury/Modern as well as right here at home. I invite you to go there for more great content!

YouTube Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XO4pbtwisBE

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