Boys will be boys, even if they are stammering fools.
Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) is a bit of a shallow dude. For one, he closes himself off from the rest of the world, he doesn’t work, he gains all sorts of money off of the royalties for some Christmas song his dad made back in the day and shags plenty of women, although he never plans on, and never actually does, give them a call back or anything. Although, it may make you wonder: Why would somebody who is as charming as Will, actually conjure up a plan to act as if he is a single-daddy, only to connect with more single-mothers, in hopes that he’d be able to nab them as well? Either way though, it doesn’t matter because Will goes for it anyway and wouldn’t you know it? The results don’t go as planned. Not only does he not get nookie, but now he’s got some awkward, mopey teen named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) who just won’t leave him alone. But little does he know that Marcus has a bit of a problem at home with his suicidal-mommy (Toni Collette) at home, as well as being picked on at school, and is only in need of a friend; something that Will himself may need as well. His only problem is that he doesn’t know it yet.
If anybody out there reading this right now as ever read a Nick Hornby novel, they know one thing about the dude: He knows how to write characters. Not just good characters or those easy-to-define types, nope, he’s more-attuned at writing about and characterizing those certain people in our lives we choose not to be around or associated with, and therefore, would not ever want to spend time with in a movie for a near-two hours.
You know, the unlikable people.
But somehow, Hornby makes these said “unlikable people” actually ones we can actually stand to be around, but even like and, dare I say it, connect with. Because see, Hornby may love it when his characters don’t do the best, most moral things to other people, but he never stops to show us why that said person, does that said immoral act. It actually gets us to grow closer to these characters, just as we’re watching the character themselves grow-up and begin to learn more about being a good, kind person in the world.
You know, like you’re supposed to be.
And with Will Freeman, Hornby truly did give us a d-bag that is not only hardly sympathetic, but pretty damn knowing about his mean ways as well. He knows that he’s lazy, a bum, a dick and a cad-like fella that loves a good shag every now and then, but never anything too severe to where he actually has to start up a relationship with anybody, where commitments, and feelings and all sorts of that icky, gooey stuff gets thrown into the mix. Will just isn’t programmed, but he’s not acting like he is, which sort of makes him interesting to watch. Sure, we know he loves lying to women, in the most manipulative-ways possible so that he can just bed them, but he never really tries to go for anything more than just a god’s-to-honest, simple fling and that’s all. All the ladies out there must hate him, but from one guy to another, I have to say, the guy is pretty damn cool.
That’s also the main reason why the casting of Hugh Grant in the lead role as Will Freeman was not only perfect, but nearly game-changing, in terms of Grant’s career as a head-liner. Grant’s always been the type of bumbling idiot that the dudes love to hate, and their girlfriends secretly want to be with, that’s never really stretched himself too much as an actor and instead, has just relied on two faces: Example A and B. Yes, those same faces have somehow been able to charm just about each and every women across the globe, but it hasn’t really earned him much respect or credit, in terms of just what it is that he’s capable of doing as an actor, and how he’s able to make it seem like he’s more than just another pretty face, who just so happens to have a relatively fine amount of skills as an actor.
But that all changed with Will Freeman, as Grant was not only able to show us that he’s able to be downright funny at times, but that he’s also able to do it while being a bit of a smug prick. You can tell that he’s like a man-child with a million-dollar smile and fine collection of all sorts music, but you can’t always hold it against him, because once Marcus walks into his life, times eventually do change for the guy and even though he does put up a fight against it for practically the whole time, he never does anything too reprehensible to where we totally abandon his character. Eventually too, he begins to realize that he needs Marcus, just as much as Marcus needs him and therefore, they build a lovely chemistry that not only improves over time, but begins to get more and more real, once actual relationships and friendships seem to get all caught up in the mix.
Needless to say though, Grant is the sole reason why Freeman is the type of character who is worth watching, but also another main reason why this movie deserves to be seen. Makes me wish he did more nowadays, but I guess that whenever we get to see him show up in something, whether it’d be as 2,000 different characters in Cloud Atlas, then that’s fine too. Although, the same can’t be said for Nicholas Hoult who is not only making quite a splash as a leading-man of sorts himself, but is also making a splash into some noteworthy people’s beds, if you know what I mean? Anyway though, that doesn’t matter because Hoult still does a fine enough job here as Marcus to where he’s not non-stop annoying the whole time through. He’s definitely a needy-boy who practically pushes himself onto Will and into his life, but you can’t help but think you’d do the same thing, especially if you saw some middle-aged bum just wasting his life away on game show re-runs.
Together, they’re great and give this movie all the fine heart and soul it clearly needed to survive. Although, if I had to pick a problem I had with this movie, it was that the romance-angle Will had with Rachel Weisz’s character wasn’t all that well-written, or even developed really. Both of them clearly try, and having Rachel Weisz in a movie, is definitely better than NOT having Rachel Weisz in a movie, but it did make me wish her character was given more to work with. At least nearly as much as Toni Collette had to work with, but then again, that woman could make even M. Night Shyamalan’s dialogue work, and sound like Shakespeare, so I won’t even dare mess with her. Yikes!
Consensus: Without ever getting too sentimental or sappy, About a Boy clearly rides the fine line between dark comedy, heart and romance, while also giving Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Grant plenty of time and material to work on their chemistry together, and build a friendship that’s one of the better ones I’ve ever seen on the big screen.
8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!