Nick Hornby's 1998 novel, about 12-y.o Joni Mitchell-loving Marcus who's led a sheltered life in Cambridge. When his parents separate he and his mother move to London (real life), and he realizes just how little he knows about anything. He's bullied at school, his depressed mother attempts suicide, they meet rich single 36-y.o. Will. Marcus makes a friend, discovers who Nirvana are, and Kurt Cobain kills himself. At the end Marcus finds out what matters and what doesn't: at last he's "normal".

Artist: Badly Drawn Boy
Badly Drawn Boy was given the challenge by Nick Hornby himself (a man clearly very passionate about music) to create the soundtrack for the new movie by the same title, About A Boy.

Movie soundtracks can be like great mix tapes, they can be something to help a lost movie go-er through the finer points of a plot, or they can be shit. Most often, when one artist does an entire soundtrack, it's the later. In this case however, Badly Drawn Boy has risen to the occasion. This is one of the best single artist not fully instrumental movie soundtracks I have ever heard. That said, here's the track list already.

Track list:

  1. Exit Stage Right
  2. A Peak You Reach
  3. Something To Talk About
  4. Dead Duck
  5. Above You, Below Me
  6. I love N.Y.E.
  7. Silent Sigh
  8. Wet, Wet, Wet
  9. River-Sea-Ocean
  10. S.P.A.T.
  11. Rachel's Flat
  12. Walking Out Of Stride
  13. File Me Away
  14. A Minor Incident
  15. Delta (Little Boy Blues)
  16. Donna and Blitzen
2002 film starring Hugh Grant minus floppy fringe and stutter. Adapted from the novel by Nick Hornby, it tells the story of Grant's character Will, a rich, good for nothing layabout, who lives off the royalties earned by a crap xmas song his father wrote. Will consumes - DVDs, CDs, daytime telly, overpriced meals at poncy London restaurants - but refuses to allow himself to connect or develop any of his short-term relationships. This slowly changes during the course of the movie as his life becomes entangled with that of a lonely 12 year old boy, Marcus (Nicholas Hoult).

The relationship comes about after Will discovers that dating single mothers suits his lifestyle, and in order to meet them he starts attending a single parent help group, inventing a two year old son in the process. This deception leads to an encounter with Marcus and the pair begun to bond after Will covers for Marcus when he accidently kills a duck, and after Fiona (Toni Collette), Marcus's mum, attempts to kill herself, the boy begins spending more and more time with Will.

The film is quite amusing, Grant seems to revel in playing a bit of bastard, but even so his character isn't too much of a stretch from the foppish posh English bloke he usually portrays. Hoult does quite well as the young boy, never descending into annoying child actor territory, and the pair build up a good rapport. The film is let down by a slightly weak third act, the narration tells us that Will and Marcus are both finding love (not with each other mind), but nothing we see on screen ever demonstrates why or how. And yes, the ending is a bit sappy and sentimental but that's always the case with these films and there's enough momentum and funny touches to keep the story from ever becoming bogged down.

About a Boy is directed by Chris and Paul Weitz, who were responsible for the American Pie movies, so this shows off they can bring a subtler stroke to their work. Toni Collette is also good, playing a different kind of mother from her role as Haley Joel Osment's mother in The Sixth Sense (which is briefly alluded to in the opening segment). Rachel Weisz flickers briefly, but doesn't have a lot to do aside from being the object of Grant's affections. Apart from all this the other thing that has to be mentioned is the soundtrack, composed mainly by Badly Drawn Boy, which is absolutely fantastic.

With all the elements for a funny, diverting hour and a half or so of romantic comedy in place, best-selling novel; star with track record and box office clout, cute but not annoying kid, songs you are happy to hear on the radio, and the cynical but soft in the right places script, it really shouldn't be a surprise that this film is so enjoyable. And enjoyable it is.

The film About a Boy is one of those (like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil or Bonfire of the Vanities) that it is better to see before reading the book.

As in the book, the story concerns a thirtyish English guy, Will (Hugh Grant) who lives off the royalties of a ridiculously twee Christmas carol written by his father. This income makes it unnecessary for him to work, so he happily drifts through life, buying CDs and watching game shows and getting his hair cut.

All of this is then complicated by his getting the bright idea of dating single mothers (he figures they will be more likely to go out with him) which leads to him meeting the Boy of the title. (Or is Grant supposed to be the boy? Or is it both??)

Anyway, contrary to the impression given by the trailer for the film, the Boy (Nicholas Hoult) rather than the Girl (Rachel Weisz) is really the focus of the movie. After meeting Marcus (the Boy) and his mother (Toni Collette) at a single parenting support group with a rather unattractive acronymical name like SPLAT (I forget what it really is, but something like that), Will becomes entangled with their lives due to an improbable series of events involving a duck and a loaf of bread.

!! Important Plot Point Alert!!
Don't keep reading if you don't want to know what happens next.

At this point, the lightheartedness takes a turn down Lonely Street when Boy's mother attempts suicide. He doesn't really have any other adults in his life, so he basically adopts Will, showing up at this house to watch game shows and hang out. Gradually, of course, Will comes to Care For Marcus in his own shallow way, and tries to help him out by buying him stylish tennis shoes and Mystikal CDs, being shocked and embarrassed at the tacky earnestness shown by Marcus and his mother as they sing "Killing Me Softly" around the piano.

This helps for a while, but when Marcus's mother starts slipping back into depression again, Will can't really deal with the intensity of the situation and isn't much help. So, Marcus decides that since his singing is the only thing that makes his mother happy, he will commit social suicide by singing Killing Me Softly (the Roberta Flack version, of course, not the Fugees) at the school talent show.

Meanwhile, Will has finally met The Girl, and realizes that he is just not interesting enough to hold the attention of someone as cool as she is, and there is some business where he gets Marcus to pretend he is his son in order to seem like he has depth. Anyway, it all comes together in a schmaltzy climax where Will accompanies Marcus on the guitar in the talent show and they all live happily ever after.

This isn't a bad thing, really, and I loved the movie, but when I read the book afterwards, I realized that the film entirely misses the whole point of the book, which doesn't have the same pat ending, and involves the death of Kurt Cobain in a rather sad and touching way.

Basically, the film is saying that you shouldn't conform to society's worship of pop culture; that you should stick to your guns and be a geek, goddammit, and then your mom won't kill herself and/or you'll get a hot girlfriend.

What the book says, though, and what I think is a much more difficult and interesting truth, is that sometimes you have to give up some of your individuality in order to fuction normally in society. In the end of the book, when Will asks him about the song, Marcus says something about how lame "Killing Me Softly" is--he's become a normal kid, but he's lost something as well. This isn't meant to be tragic, though; it's better than being tortured every day at school.


Main Cast and Crew

Hugh Grant .... Will
Toni Collette .... Fiona
Nicholas Hoult .... Marcus
Rachel Weisz .... Rachel
Nat Gastiain Tena .... Ellie

Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz
Screenplay by Peter Hedges, based on the novel by Nick Hornby

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