We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Hugh Grant, who has a good line in charm, has never been more charming than in "About a Boy." Or perhaps that's not quite what he is. Charming in the Grant stylebook refers to something he does as a conscious act, and what is remarkable here is that Grant is--well, likable. Yes, the cad has developed a heart. There are times, toward the end of the film, where he speaks sincerely and we can actually believe him.
In "About a Boy," he plays Will, a 38-year-old bachelor who has never had a job, or a relationship that has lasted longer than two months. He is content with this lifestyle. "I was the star of the Will Show," he explains. "It was not an ensemble drama." His purpose in life is to date pretty girls. When they ask him what he does, he smiles that self-deprecating Hugh Grant smile and confesses that, well, he does--nothing. Not a single blessed thing. In 1958 his late father wrote a hit song titled "Santa's Super Sleigh," and he lives rather handsomely off the royalties. His London flat looks like a showroom for Toys for Big Boys.
Will is the creation of Nick Hornby, who wrote the original novel. This is the same Hornby who wrote High Fidelity, which was made into the wonderful John Cusack movie. Hornby depicts a certain kind of immature but latently sincere man who loves Women as a less demanding alternative to loving a woman. Will's error, or perhaps it is his salvation, is that he starts dating single mothers, thinking they will be less demanding and easier to dump than single girls.
The strategy is flawed: Single mothers invariably have children, and what Will discovers is that while he would make a lousy husband, he might make a wonderful father. Of course it takes a child to teach an adult how to be a parent, and that is how Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) comes into Will's life. Will is dating a single mom named Suzie, who he meets at a support group named Single Parents, Alone Together (SPAT). He shamelessly claims that his wife abandoned him and their 2-year-old son, "Ned." Suzie has a friend named Fiona (Toni Collette), whose son, Marcus, comes along one day to the park. We've already met Marcus, who is round-faced and sad-eyed and has the kind of bangs that get him teased in the school playground. His mother suffers from depression, and this has made Marcus mature and solemn beyond his years. When Fiona tries to overdose one day, Will finds himself involved in a trip to the emergency room and other events during which Marcus decides that Will belongs in his life whether Will realizes it or not.