When my buddy Rick raved on and on about About a Boy after seeing it during its initial theatrical run, I made incessant fun of him. Hell, we all did. He grandly claimed that, at the time, it was the best movie of the year. We called him a girl, and even painted elaborate tales of Rick camping out overnight in front of the Galleria Tower Records in anticipation of the DVD release, painting his nails with all of his girlfriends and having pillow-fights. It was great fun, especially when he cried a little that one time. Fuckin' baby.
So, when Shan and I went to see a screening of it recently, I kept the event on the low-low. I mean, I didn't want to be victimized by revenge razzing. I expected to see the film, briefly agree with Shan that it was a mediocre chick flick and not worthy of further award thought, and never speak of it again.
Thing is, it turns out that About a Boy is a really, really good movie.
The previews got this movie all wrong (as happens often with good movies, I find). It's not a clever romantic comedy. Rather, it's a sometimes sad, ultimately uplifting story about a boy (Nicholas Hoult) trying to deal with his mother's (Toni Collette) extreme bipolar disorder by attaching himself to an unlikely father figure (Hugh Grant). In the process, they help each other cope with loneliness, and Grant's character learns a bit about being a responsible adult.
Even in my description it sounds a little hokey, but I assure you, it is not. This is a clean, tight, understated script, directed with a steady hand, and acted by a group of extremely talented actors. Hout, as the troubled young boy, is really wonderful. Grant's singular talent at playing the somehow truly likeable narcissist is put to great use. Collette is brilliant (as always) as the mentally unstable mother, and the rest of the supporting cast is uniformly strong.
Ultimately, I'd describe this movie as a chick flick for guys. It is sweet, sad, and often deeply moving, without being uncomfortably over-emotional. Apart from the crazy mother, none of the main characters break down in tears, or have over-dramatic personal revelations. You believe the changes the characters undergo, the paths they take, and the often conservative way they communicate their feelings to each other.
I don't know. It's difficult to really describe why I like this thing so much. It just struck a chord somewhere deep within me. It's not the best picture of the year, but it's comfortably among my top 10 favorites -- I truly enjoyed it.
I'm going to have to find something else to tease Rick about. Fortunately, that shouldn't be too hard.