All My Movies: About A Boy

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It seems like all I’m doing in here lately is ‘All My Movies’ posts, but it’s been quiet on the media scene lately. I do intend to post on Toy Story 3 and the rise of the EP at some point soon though.

About A Boy
Starring: Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult
Costarring: Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz
Directors: Chris Weitz, Adam Weitz
Times Watched: I’m going to guess at least 6-7
Genre: Comedy / Romantic Comedy
Rotten Tomatoes / Metacritic: 93% / 75

Road To Ownership: I got this previously viewed at some point…possibly when I had mono in high school.

The Plot: Will is a bit of a louse – he lives off the royalties of his dad’s one hit holiday wonder, spends his days being pampered while using and abusing the ladies, and is generally regarded as extremely shallow. One day he figures out that single mothers are an easy mark, which leads him to a parent support group where he makes up having a kid. It’s there he meets a woman named Suzy, and at a playdate for the single mothers group, Suzy’s friend’s weird son Marcus. The movie is also told from Marcus’ perspective – he’s a lonely, beat up on young boy that puts up with all the weirdness in his life to make his eccentric, maniacally depressed, granola crunch mother happy. Marcus figures out that Will is lying to Suzy and uses that as a way to hang out with the supremely cool Will to escape the rest of his life. Meanwhile Will is challenged to figure out how to stop being a blank slate and actually be a worthwhile person – so he can attract the woman of his dreams, and be something to Marcus.

The Good & The Bad: Who would have thought the Weitz brothers (of American Pie and Twilight fame) could create such a charming movie? I hadn’t watched this film in awhile, but as I rewatched it yesterday I fell in love with it again. I remember when I first saw the posters for it, I thought – sweet, new Hugh Grant rom com with a cute kid! Marcus is in fact obnoxious and truly weird, and not your cutie pie movie star kid, and the movie isn’t exactly a traditional Hugh Grant rom com – and that’s what makes it work. Grant is playing his proto-typical aloof but self-doubting cool guy, but the movie is more about that character on his own (a self-described island) versus his relationship with Rachel Weisz’s character, which only comes into play about 2/3rds of the way in. Along with Notting Hill, this is one of the only movies where we get to see Grant out of his element, and it’s lovely and charming.

Along with Bridget Jones Diary and Love Actually, I think AAB is one of the few British films that really manages to capture the quirkiness of British comedy but still have widespread appeal to North American audiences. There are many quintessentially British plot points and humour, but it still works in translation. Another thing I love about this movie is the sense of community it creates. Although we only meet the majority of minor characters a handful of times, you still feel like there is a world that the main characters in habit, and the connections in it work. Marcus’ schoolmates, the SPAT support group, Imogen’s parents, and so on all work to create a fully realized sense of place.

The performances are also good in the film. The kid that plays Marcus sells it perfectly – there has always been that weird kid that’s so easy to pick on – but he gives it depth by linking his odd behaviour to his mom’s self-imposed state of disaster. Toni Collette as Marcus’ mom is also fantastic. It’s the first movie I remember seeing her in, and she plays the self-involved manic depressive good-thinking mom perfectly. Rachel Weisz is totally adorable in this film, and her appearance in it is what I always picture when reading the Confessions of a Shopaholic books back in the day. And Hugh Grant, as I mentioned, gives one of the best performances ever by not reluctantly falling into a romance, but instead reluctantly evolving as a character from the self-imposed cad that he is for much of the film.

I also would like to credit the filmmakers for some decent cinematography and stylistic choices – the Marcus slow walk to Will’s home with the intense, jagged music, the little montage of Will’s ex-girlfriends telling him where to go, and the constant rotating parallels between Marcus and Will’s lives all make for an excellent bit of storytelling and visual humour (see: the frozen scenes of the soccer ball and the apple, the ‘telling the truth leading to more questions’ moments, etc.). Great use of voice over throughout. I will note I've never read the book, but I fully intend to - but this latest viewing made me feel like the movie was probably a pretty solid adaptation of the book based on the use of V/O.

Best Scene: This is a movie that is good through & through – so many funny bits – but I always get the giggles when Hugh Grant strolls out strumming a guitar at the talent show.

Worst Scene
: Typically speaking the worst scenes in a film are the ones where I want to yell at the characters to just explain things in a certain way that makes sense! When a film balks at making logical, linear sense, I get very snippy. Case in point: the scene with Hugh Grant admitting to Rachel Weisz that Marcus is not his son. Why not just explain it as you have to us, the audience, throughout the film! That you came into his life at a very fragile time, his mom was suicidal, and you took it upon yourself to be a bit of a mentor and unofficial father figure in his life. He’s a friend of the family, etc. etc. Simple! I would buy that! That scene and subsequent bailout of the Will/Rachel (yes, her name is Rachel in the film) relationship drives me nuts.

Best Character: Hugh Grant is great in this movie, so by default, Will.

Worst Character: Although acted perfectly, Toni Collette’s ‘Fiona’ drives me up the wall. I know I’m being unsympathetic to manic depressive single moms, but her selfishness throughout the movie is painful.

Soundtrack of our Lives: One of the BEST parts of this movie is the soundtrack. With a few notable exceptions – Killing Me Softly and Mystikal’s Shake Your A— - this movie’s entire soundtrack is the product of amazing musician Badly Drawn Boy, score and all. The film is wholly unified and made that much better from the fantastic score and soundtrack. It’s easily one of the top 3 soundtracks of all time. Buy it!

If You Like This You’ll Like
: Depends what you like about it. ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ has Toni Collette and the same quirky family charm. ‘Bridget Jones Diary’ is one of the few quintessentially British films out there that parallels this one in awesomeness, where it’s really about the character with the romance as a bonus. ‘Notting Hill’ is tied for best Hugh Grant performance in terms of departures from this typical role.

Final Grade
: 4/5. There are just too many good things happening here not to reward it as such!


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