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flick pick | About a Boy 2002
Directed by: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
Written by: Nick Hornby (novel), Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
Starring: Hugh Grant, Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult, Rachel Weisz
Language: English
Look for it at the video store under: drama
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: feel-good, witty
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: /5 

Plot synopsis Will doesn't live like most folks. A long time ago his father wrote a little ditty that went on to become one of Britain's most beloved Christmas tunes. The royalties are enough that Will can live off them quite comfortably, without having to go to the bother of being a productive member of society like just about everyone else. While his friends are building careers and families, Will resolutely continues to avoid all that, preferring his carefree bachelor existence of being able watch TV game shows, play pool, and get his (very nice) hair professionally mussed, pretty much whenever he likes. Though serious relationships are out of the question -- leading as they inevitably do to responsibility -- Will does date plenty. The problem is that all the women he dates soon end up wanting more. But when his friends set him up with a single mom, Will makes a surprising discovery: single moms are so busy juggling kids and work that they're always apologizing to him instead of the other way around. When she actually breaks up with him, Will decides he's on to a good thing with this single mom business. He sees a sign for a group called SPAT -- Single Parents Alone Together -- and proceeds to show up at their meeting. The fact that he's not actually a parent doesn't faze him; he simply invents a son for himself. The women fall all over him, and he begins seeing a fellow SPAT-ter named Suzie. On one of their dates, Suzie brings the son of one of her SPAT friends, Fiona. Fiona's prone to depression, and having a bad time of late, and Suzie thinks it'll be good for both her and her boy Marcus to get a few hours away from each other. Marcus is 12 years old and the sort of misfit that even the geeks at school don't want to hang out with. He's too sensitive and he dresses all wrong; he is, in short, the complete antithesis of Will. Which is why, as it turns out, Will and Marcus have so much to learn from each other. Little by little, the selfish, shallow man who always claimed he didn't need anyone else in his life finds himself playing dad -- and being kind of good at it too.

Review A long time ago, I liked Hugh Grant. C'mon now, Andie MacDowell's craptastic line readings aside, Four Weddings and a Funeral was genuinely funny and sweet, with just enough loopy thrown in to make it fresh -- and Grant's floppy-haired, stammering star turn was a big part of why that movie was a step above the usual romantic comedy tripe. But then Grant went on to make a series of very bad movie choices, in which he played the exact same stereotypically bumbling and increasingly irritating English fop, over and over and over again. And I was pretty sure I never wanted to see him on screen again. Then something amazing happened: Hugh Grant stopped being Hugh Grant in his movies. Or rather, he quit playing the hyper-apologetic hapless nice guy we'd come to know and loathe, and started to show a kind of bad side. And the weird thing was, once he stopped trying to be likable, he became really rather irresistible. And nowhere is this rakish charm in better display than in About a Boy, in which Grant looks good, behaves badly, and by film's end, manages to make voluntary self-humiliation look like the sexiest thing in the world. There's plenty else that's likable about the movie too, including the always-excellent Toni Collette as hippy-dippy Fiona, Nicholas Hoult's genuinely weird and refreshingly not-cute Marcus, and the lovely soundtrack courtesy of Badly Drawn Boy. Directors Chris and Paul Weitz deftly maintain just the right amount of flippancy, cynicism and intelligence to temper the movie's ultimate sweetness. About a Boy is that rare breed of feel-good flick that doesn't have to feel like a guilty pleasure.  —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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