A Look Back: About A Boy

“You will end up childless and alone,” warns one of the main character’s friends in “About A Boy.” “With fingers crossed, yeah,” the unrepentant Will (Hugh Grant) replies, and when his friends ask him to be the godfather of their new child because they believe he has “hidden depths,” counters that no, he really is as shallow as he appears. Based on the novel by the same name by Nick Hornby (but not, like “High Fidelity,” transported from England to the US), the DVD cover features the other main character (Nicholas Hoult) peering up through a winter hat, similar to photos used for “”The Blair Witch Project” when it was released. Unlike “The Blair Witch Project,” however, “About A Boy,” is about a scarier subject than going camping and meeting up with the paranormal – adulthood and the groping path many of us take toward it.

Hugh Grant plays a single, independently wealthy British man in the mid-nineties (the title is a play on the Nirvana song “About A Girl”), who lives off the royalties of a Christmas novelty song his dad wrote (even though he’s deeply embarrassed about it). Having plenty of time on his hands, Hugh decides he wants to date single moms so he joins a support group for them specifically while pretending to have a young son. This is how he winds up meeting Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), the eccentric son of hippie-ish Toni Collette, who is a single mom but not Hugh’s type at all. However, he winds up involved her problems when Nicholas latches onto him (he’s a “cool” adult) and thinks that he and Toni would make a great match. Nicholas has problems of his own, as he’s being bullied at his new school, and when he meets a girl his age he likes, seeks Hugh’s help with both issues. Eventually, Nicholas figures out the truth, but by then, Hugh is entwined, despite himself, in their lives, and even though he considers his life “not an ensemble show,” he begins to take some steps out of his delayed adolescence.

“About A Boy,” features many upbeat subjects, such as a suicide and the death of a duck, but there’s plenty of black humor. The plot sticks closely to the book, but takes quite a twist in the third act, perhaps because it’s supposed to be set more in the present than 1994. Instead of the death of Kurt Cobain, which winds up bringing all the characters together, it’s “Killing Me Softly,” performed at a school talent show that does, perhaps an odd substitution, but in a way, adolescence is one long experience of that, and getting out of it alive requires as Nicholas notes, more than just two people in your corner. Even if one of them is a bit of a liar.


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