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About a Boy
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87 out of 94 people found the following review useful:

a sterling comic gem

Author: Roland E. Zwick (magneteach@aol.com) from United States
8 June 2002

I think I smiled all the way through `About a Boy,' a comic near-masterpiece derived from the best-selling novel by Nick Hornby. For the sake of accuracy, both the novel and the film should more rightly be titled `About TWO Boys,' since the story focuses not only on 12-year old Marcus, but on 38-year old Will, a man totally dedicated to the proposition that any man who so desires can live quite happily on his own private little urban island, thank you very much. Will's `island' is his own London flat, which he has equipped with all the accoutrements of comfort and diversion that modern technology – in the form of computers, big screen TV's and DVD players - can afford. Who needs people when you have so much `stuff' to keep you content and occupied? Will thrives in his environment, much to the chagrin of his married couple friends who keep insisting that he must certainly be miserable without a wife and family to give his life meaning. But Will loves being shallow – a fact of his personality he is more than willing to declare right up front – and the last thing he needs – or thinks he needs – is people to clutter it up. Yet, island dwellers have a tendency not to remain marooned for long, and, before he knows it, Will finds himself striking up a relationship with a lonely, backward boy named Marcus, whose mother suffers from serious bouts of suicidal depression.

More than any comedy in recent memory, `About a Boy' establishes a tone and sticks with it to the end. The screenplay by Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz (the latter two function as the film's directors as well) manages to take a potentially clichéd and predictable story and invest it with a warmth, wit and tenderness that are all-enveloping. The voice-over narration by both Will and Marcus, which introduces us to their characters and keeps us informed as to their mental progress throughout the film, is remarkably clever and droll. Yet, the characters never come across as smug, smart-alecky or flippant. Rather, they speak and behave in ways that are both believable and realistic. Hugh Grant gives his richest performance to date as Will, the man who refuses to grow up and assume the role of responsible adult, blithely unaware of the emotional depths that lie hidden under a surface of apathy and indifference. The superb Grant is more than matched by relative newcomer Nicholas Hoult, an extraordinarily gifted young actor who doesn't look like the average `adorable' screen kid, and who makes Marcus into a very real, very likable and very sensitive young man. The remainder of the large cast is outstanding as well. Moreover, the film is very astute in its observation about just how easy technology has made it for us to isolate ourselves from one another. Admittedly, a little of the sharpness does go out of the screenplay in its closing stretches, but not enough to diminish one's pleasure appreciably.

In many ways, `About a Boy' is a movie that needs to be experienced first hand, since mere words fail to convey the very special charm and spell it manages to cast over the viewer. Rush to see it. Comic gems like this one don't come around very often!

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77 out of 90 people found the following review useful:

Effective, Satisfying Film

9/10
Author: jhclues from Salem, Oregon
6 June 2002

Being afforded a life of independent means can be a blessing in some regards, perhaps, but it can also be the definitive test of one's character. If one chooses to use such a situation toward altruistic ends, or at the very least a venture that can provide some personal fulfillment, it says something about who that person is. On the other hand, if one squanders the opportunity on a totally self-absorbed, shallow existence, it says even more. And while taking the latter path may provide some interesting moments, it's a cosmetically created, external bubble that serves no other purpose than covering up an empty life, and sooner or later-- to anyone with even a modicum of intelligence-- that bubble is bound to burst; and when it finally happens, when the wake-up call comes, how one responds to it is the ultimate test of character, which is what happens to a such a man in `About A Boy,' directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, and starring Hugh Grant.

As far as Will Freeman (Grant) is concerned, he has the perfect life; he lives comfortably, if not extravagantly, on the income provided by a certain kind of inheritance. On the surface, at least, he's happy. Admittedly, however, he's the very epitome of `shallow,' who makes a conscious and concerted effort at avoiding any commitment in relationships, or even attempting to accomplish or achieve anything at all. He merely takes from life, gives absolutely nothing back and has always been content with it. But of late, his relationships have become a bit `sticky.' Women are becoming too demanding, the break-ups too messy. He needs a new conquest, a relationship in which he can flex his shallowness anew, with a woman who will give him everything and demand nothing in return.

Fortuitous circumstances provide him with just what he's looking for; fortuitous, however, in a way he doesn't realize, as it leads to a relationship through which he encounters a young boy, Marcus (Nicholas Hoult). And it's a meeting that is destined to have an enormous impact on his life, as Marcus becomes the catalyst that changes Will's entire perspective. For the first time, Will begins to question who he is, and what he's doing-- or not doing-- with his life.

Telling this story (adapted for the screen by Peter Hedges and the Weitz brothers, from the novel by Nick Hornby) presented a challenge to the filmmakers, in that it's nothing really new; the history of the cinema is filled with stories of individual epiphanies, many along the same lines as this one (recently, `The Kid,' with Bruce Willis, for example). So a fresh approach and presentation, including the kind of performances they could extract from their actors, was essential for this film to attain any distinction whatsoever. Which it does, and splendidly. And, moreover, they succeed on all fronts. The screenplay is intelligent, and the characters-- especially Will and Marcus' mom, Fiona (Toni Collette)-- are convincingly well developed. With Will, there is no sudden leap into who he becomes by the end of the film; it comes though a gradual recognition and realization of who he is, after first establishing a starting point from which the character can grow. The same is true of Fiona. There's detours and set-backs which-- as in real life-- prevent a direct journey from point A to point B, and create the proverbial sticky wicket along the way. Weitz and Weitz set a good pace, and most importantly, manage to give their film some real heart without lapsing into any melodramatic, maudlin sentimentality. Rather, the sentiments and situations they express are real and believable, and presented in such a way as to afford the audience any number of elements to which they can genuinely relate.

As Will, Hugh Grant gives arguably his best performance ever. In some respects, Will is similar to other characters Grant has created (most notably Daniel in `Bridget Jones's Diary'), but there's a depth to Will he's never previously managed to achieve, and without question this is his most three-dimensional, fully developed character yet. Grant has a natural charm and a charismatic screen presence, but his presentation is often tinged with a bit of pretentiousness that is entirely absent here. He does an especially nice job of effecting Will's transition in very real and credible terms, and by the end, it's obvious that this is a side of Grant we have not seen before; with this role, he has effectively expanded his range as an actor. In the final analysis, it's a performance with real substance, and it makes Will a truly memorable character.

The young Hoult brings Marcus convincingly to life, as well, with an extremely natural performance, in which he commendably manages to avoid the trappings of stereotype into which this character could easily have fallen. Some credit must go to his directors, of course, but it's Hoult who makes it especially believable in the way he responds, for instance, to certain given situations that typically seem to evoke a particular reaction when being depicted on screen (his rather introspective response to the taunts of his school mates, for example; quite different than what is usually portrayed in film). And in their scenes together, Grant and Hoult strike a chord of reality that finally assures the overall success of this film.

The supporting cast includes Rachel Weisz (Rachel), Isabel Brook (Angie), Sharon Small (Christine), Victoria Smurfit (Suzie) and Nat Gastiain Tena (Ellie). Entertaining, as well as insightful, `About A Boy' gives a truly fresh perspective to an element of the human condition that has been explored before, but rarely as effectively. The Weitz Brothers make the subject of their film accessible to a wide audience, and in a way that is engaging and satisfying. This film is going to be a pleasant surprise to many who see it, in that it delivers a whole lot more than most would expect. And that's the magic of the movies. 9/10.





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62 out of 76 people found the following review useful:

Hugh Grant in non-annoying role shock! And he's quite funny too

Author: Aidan McGuinness from Dublin, Ireland
26 June 2002

`About a Boy' was being touted as a great make over for Hugh Grant… and it is. Gone is his infamous bumbling English fop role, his fluffy hair lost to a sharp, more stylish cut. Here he plays a rich selfish layabout, Will, who cruises through life on the royalties from a song his deceased father penned years ago. He finds a great way to meet women who don't want to get involved through a single mother's group – which is where he meets the strange twelve year old boy Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), who lives with his depressed, suicidal mother Fiona (Toni Collette). A tragic event sees Marcus seeking comfort with the indifferent Will who begins to realise that there's more to life than sitting around at home all day.

Hugh Grant is on peak form here – he sheds his old roles for that of a fresher, younger man. He is able to convey charm and selfishness not just through words, but also through his mannerisms. He even conveys genuine affable warmth later on in the movie, without making my teeth grate… Equally impressive is Toni Collette as Marcus' sad mother. Her character has a tragic feeling to it, a real sense of world-weariness conveyed in a great combination of makeup and acting. The real star of the movie – for me- is Nicholas Hoult as the young boy who helps Will come to realizations about his life. He doesn't get by on cute good looks, like far too many kid actors, because he can actually act – from the innocence of a child (when he tries to get his mother and Will together), to the simplistic musings of children who can't understand why some people hurt (such as his mother). Like Osment (whom he amusing compares himself to), Hoult shows that child actors are just as, if not more so, capable as their elders.

The script of the movie is witty, without being outright hilarious. It's what you come to expect of the British comedy market (the weak `Ali G indahouse' aside). It being a British comedy you can predict where it's going to go and there are relatively few surprises along the way. Having said that the characters are sketched strongly enough, and the humour at a high enough level, that you'll be more than entertained along the way.

It's surprising to see that this movie was directed by the `American Pie' Weitz brothers, because they bring a thoughtful, contemplative air to the movie, while never getting bogged down in pointless camera techniques – the most we're left with is some simple screen wipes. They've also chosen well by having Badly Drawn Boy compose the whole soundtrack as it works very well with the film's tone.

There's nothing outstanding in `About a Boy' but what's here is done surprisingly well. It's a nice movie that's quite enjoyable for relaxing to some evening. A 7/10 seems just.

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46 out of 55 people found the following review useful:

Isle Of Hugh

8/10
Author: Bill Slocum (bill.slocum@gmail.com) from Greenwich, CT United States
20 July 2005

Sometimes a rut can feel like a hammock when we get stuck in one.

"About A Boy" is about a Londoner who was apparently born into one, imprisoned as it were by his father's legacy as author of one of the world's most popular and annoying Christmas songs. After years of feckless unemployed upper-middle-class living, Will views himself as an island, and sees his lack of long-term relationships as a plus. Even offered the simple honor of being an infant's godfather, Will begs off, saying he'd be "crap" at it and probably just "try and shag" the girl the moment she turned 18.

"I always thought you had hidden depths," the mother says.

"No, you've always had that wrong," Will cheerfully replies. "I really am this shallow."

But of course Will does have depths, and as played by Hugh Grant in a role that gives this smooth comedic actor a chance to showcase some previously-unguessed-at depths of his own, we find ourselves rooting for Will to find them as he finds himself attached unwillingly to a 12-year-old named Marcus, played with welcome non-cuteness by Nicholas Hoult. Marcus, an abuse magnet at school, is alternately worried for his unstable mother and searching for a pal. Will, a 12-year-old at heart, is a perfect if unknowing candidate.

Based on the great Nick Hornby novel, "About A Boy" walks a fine line, doling out easy laughs and real pathos with deceptive ease. Like Hornby's book, the movie depicts Will's perverse detachment from the world as both delightful and pathetic. Life is a full plate of pain for those who participate, but the benefits, as Marcus tries to tell Will, beat all else.

Of course, most of us don't have the luxury for "island living," and the potential of resenting Will, especially as played by that handsome devil Grant, might have been the film's biggest danger. But Grant defuses things with a subtle characterization that downshifts on the smugness and draws on the lost boy within.

For example, when Will tries to infiltrate a single-mothers' club as a way of bagging some commitment-free sex, we watch him tell the mothers about his own non-existent two-year-old boy Ned telling him "you hang in there, Dad," then reacting with uncertain fear when the mothers enthuse about how remarkable that is for such a young child.

But we also see the pain Will pretends isn't there, in brief flashes as he reflects on the hard-drinking failure his father became after his one-hit wonder, and especially in one great scene where Will finds himself with a woman he really cares about, unable to break out of his artifice at a critical moment. During that scene, and a later, angry one with Marcus, Grant's acting really demands consideration from those who dismiss him as a dandy glamor boy.

The directors, Chris and Paul Weitz of "American Pie"-fame, prove they can make a film that delivers intelligence as well as laughter, and with writer Peter Hedges, fashion a script that takes some clever and daring liberties with Hornby's solid story. I especially liked the one near the end of the movie, but if I revealed anything I'd probably get some Flack for it, so say no more.

The very last scene of the movie is a mistake, though, the kind of tidy resolution Hornby's novel and life itself rightly rejects. It's the one bum note in this film, but enough of one to dock it a point with me. Otherwise, I'd have to rate this above even the other cinematic Hornby adaptation, the classic "High Fidelity." But this is a very entertaining film, with great set design, a terrific "Rubber Soul"-style Britpop title song by Badly Drawn Boy, tight editing, and subtle, crafty camera work. Also some great supporting performances, especially Toni Collette as Marcus' mother, who has the film's toughest role (she must be funny and suicidal) and manages to not only pull it off but gives "About A Boy" a wonderfully unstable center. As "About A Boy" makes clear, instability is a good thing when it shakes us from our ruts.

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42 out of 52 people found the following review useful:

Hugh Grant shines; great coming-of-age movie; bloody hilarious and touching at the same time

10/10
Author: kwongers from USA
17 June 2005

In the wonderfully entertaining "About A Boy," Hugh Grant shucks everything that made him famous nearly a decade earlier in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (the floppy hair, the stuttering, etc.) and ends up giving his best performance to date. He plays Will, a wealthy, happily unemployed, commitment-phobic cad (slightly less insidious than Daniel Cleaver of "Bridget Jones's Diary") whose newest ploy is to date single mothers because they are easier to dump. However, he meets Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), the son of a somewhat suicidal mother (Toni Colette), and realizes that he cannot continue living his life so shallowly.

This film was based on Nick Hornby's wonderful book of the same name and retains much of the wit and touching humor. The early scenes depicting Will's "full," but spiritually empty, life are particularly amusing, with Will dividing the day up into units of time and spending these units on "web-based research" (finding pics of supermodels with see-through tops), "exercise" (shooting pool), grooming, and the like. Grant makes his character irresponsible, but remains enormously likable throughout the film. This is important because we start to identify with him, and understand his fears of commitment and helplessness behind his outward superficiality. His mannerisms—Grant's specialty, I think—are v. entertaining to watch; the selfishness, hurt, anger, recognition and more pass across his face effortlessly. The other cast members– Nicholas Hoult, Toni Colette, and Rachel Weisz – are also v. good in their supporting roles and play off each other well.

The film doesn't follow the book too closely, however, but does one-up on the book by wisely emphasizing some parts that the book downplays. For example, Rachel (played by Rachel Weisz) only appears for a few pages in the book, but has much more presence in the movie. Through the Rachel character, we see how Will's relationship with her is different from his past shallow ones, and we realize that he is growing up. Also, the movie is filled with great one-liners and sharp, witty dialogue that never feels forced. The movie also employs voice-over function (Will's) very nicely; for example, in one serious scene, Will follows the ambulance to the hospital, looking rather serious, but in his voice-over he says. "It was all terrible, just terrible. But driving fast behind the ambulance was fantastic." The character would never say that out loud, but it provides comic relief and the assurance that he is, indeed, very shallow.

The strength of "About a Boy" is in the simplicity and power of its scenes. Not one scene is wasted; each one tells us a wealth about the characters and leads to Will's self-discovery. That, along with Hugh Grant's delightful performance, and backed by a great score from Badly Drawn Boy, make "About A Boy" one of the most delightful, entertaining, and touching movies I've seen. It's a great feel-good movie. Highly recommended, especially to Hugh Grant fans, or anyone who has ever empathized or sympathized with Will and his situation. One of my favorites. 10/10.

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39 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful book, wonderful movie - gotta love Nick Hornby!

9/10
Author: Superunknovvn from Austria, Vienna
7 March 2004

This movie really came as a surprise to me. I had read the book shortly before I saw it and when I heard Hugh Grant was going to star and the Weitz brothers were chosen to direct I didn't exactly have high hopes. I thought "American Pie" was funny and all but this kind of story demanded someone more mature, someone clever. This movie, however, turned out to be all that: mature, clever, witty, sensible, honest and, most of all, really funny in such a natural way. Hugh Grant has never been better in any role before or since and the soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy is just perfect for the movie. The only thing they overdid a little was Toni Collette's character. I've never seen a person like that in real life. What I did like was the way they changed the ending for the movie. Usually that's not a good idea but it totally worked here. After all, I still liked "High Fidelity" a tiny bit better (the movie, not the book), but "About A Boy" comes very close. If you are just as much a fan of this book/movie as I am, get the DVD. There are wonderful deleted scenes on it, which are as funny as the rest of the movie.

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44 out of 58 people found the following review useful:

Yet another spot-on Hornby adaptation

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
18 April 2002

Selfish, self-centered rich `kid' Will Freeman lives alone as an island in London, living off royalties from his father's record. When a new dating trick sees him targeting single mothers because they are easier to dump he unwittingly gets mixed up with Marcus. Marcus is a 12 year old who is bullied at school because of his hippy life style (forced on him by his mother) and struggles at home with his depressed, suicidal mother. At first he sees himself helping his mum by getting Will to like her but gradually Marcus and Will get used to each other and have lessons that both can learn.

Following the steaming success of High Fidelity, another Hornby book makes the transition. However credit should be given for setting the movie in England and not moving it somewhere else (cooler). This however is probably due to the lead being English and very bankable!

The story is of course about blokes….and blokes problems – this is Hornby after all. The plot is simple but the fact that it done with a great deal of wit makes it come across very easily. Occasionally the mix of heavy subjects (Marcus's home life) with the comedy of Will's life is a little uneasy, but after a while it mixes better. The story is pretty revealing – I can see a lot of myself in Will, as many men will, and it is involving then to see Marcus teach him things about life. However, saying that, the best thing about this is the comedy – when Will is involved it is nearly always laugh out loud funny – and that's most of the time.

The directors deal with this film really well – they focus on Grants strengths and also use several really cool visual things to add to the comedy – like quick cuts and freeze frame – but not to the point of annoyance. Surprising that these guys did American Pie! Not the most subtle or clever of comedies…

Grant is excellent here – he easily handles the emotional side of the film and the comedy, but it's in the comedy he excels. His face plays out as many jokes as his words and he is indeed a master at playing this character. However here he has to work harder than when he does his usual `English-fop' stuff, because Will is selfish and not immediately likeable…..I must admit that at the start I struggled to get into the film because I hate these people who spend their time in Notting Hill cafes living off inheritances etc – so it's a credit to Grant that he carries it off. Hoult is not as good – he has too much weight to carry. Hoult has to manage the whole emotional side of the film and at times he can't convince. Collette is good as Fiona but again suffers from not having any of the comedy side of the film. Rachel Weisz was good in a small role but as far as I'm concerned – if she was making this, then she wasn't making another rubbish Mummy film!

Overall this is a successful adaptation of the book. The emotional side and the comedy at times don't sit well together and at times it all feels very lightweight, but ultimately it all comes together. Grant is excellent and excels himself here – when he's on screen the film is hilarious and moves fluidly. Unfortunately it slightly highlights the weaknesses of those around him.

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35 out of 43 people found the following review useful:

Hugh Grant gets a decent script where he can do what he does best and doesn't have to stutter

7/10
Author: Chris_Docker from United Kingdom
22 May 2002

Described by some as a man's version of Bridget Jones Diary the remarkable thing is that it lives up to the description. Hugh Grant, with an excellent script that could have been written especially for him, plays a young confirmed single yuppie socialite, dividing his day into units in which to pack his meaningless but carefree, philandering lifestyle and disposable income. After initially discovering unmarried mothers as a new supply of grateful sexual objects, he becomes drawn into a meaningful life after making friends with a young boy. Avoiding a cheesy ending is one of the film's many triumphs.

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38 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

Brilliance, Fun for the whole family

9/10
Author: carlos from Melbourne Victoria Australia
8 December 2004

I just watched this yesterday again :)

i was at my grandmothers and we all watched my DVD it 3 generations of us all watched it

all loved it from my little cousin 10 - my grandparents 70s With a steady stream of laughs, masterful & quite original plot line and includes a very intriguing character ensemble.

This movie follows the tradition of Hugh Grant playing the villain extremely well inkeeping with his debut in Bridget Jones' Diary as a villainous character.

I personally liked this slightly better then Bridget it was a little more suspenseful and serious, but all lovers of the Bridget jones' series should go an buy this. guaranteed enjoyment.

but about a boy is timeless, if you enjoy it the second time you will enjoy it forever. I mention second time as the humor is a fairly conservative and educated so you need to pay attention. Or you will definitely miss the hilarity of Hugh Grants character as it isn't directly implied like skit comedies such as Road Trip and Old School. which are boring after 2 views.

don't leave the store with a copy or two of this.

rating 8.2/10

*Arghhh I've wounded his soul:'( **ohhh SHUT UP your wounding my soul!!

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26 out of 32 people found the following review useful:

Boys will be boys....

8/10
Author: jotix100 from New York
23 May 2002

I was a bit scared about what kind of treatment Chris and Paul Weitz had given the great novel by Nick Hornby. I have to report they did a great job in bringing it to the screen with the help of the screenwriter, Peter Hedges III. It's amazing what they have accomplished in translating the book to the screen and not lose focus in doing so. A great many Hollywood brains should take note of what was accomplish in this film.

Hugh Grant strikes the right amount of hipness, confusion and complete lack of responsibility in his interpretation of Will. He is an actor that brings the right attitude in playing a man about London looking for women, no matter where. He's a prowler looking for women who will fall prey to his charms. Mr. Grant is just perfect for this role.

The biggest surprise though, was the amazing debut of Nicholas Hoult, who just bowled us over as Marcus, the "boy" of the title. This young actor has a great career ahead of him if the people behind him will steer him into the right vehicles because he is a natural. He gives Mr. Grant a run for his money. The chemistry of their time together on screen is basically what was on the book while we were reading it.

Toni Collette plays another mother. Again, her interpretation of Fiona was on target. Rachel Weisz adds beauty to the film as Rachel. Someone should take a good look at this gorgeous woman and perhaps give her and Hugh Grant another vehicle where they can shine once again.

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