ABOUT A BOY (2002) and NOTTING HILL (1999): A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
ABOUT A BOY. (2002) BASED ON THE BOOK BY NICK HORNBY. DIRECTED BY CHRIS WEITZ AND PAUL WEITZ.
STARRING HUGH GRANT, NICHOLAS HOULT, TONI COLETTE, RACHEL WEISZ, NATALIA TENA, ROSALIND KNIGHT AND VICTORIA SMURFIT.
NOTTING HILL. (1999) WRITTEN BY RICHARD CURTIS. DIRECTED BY ROGER MICHELL.
STARRING HUGH GRANT, JULIA ROBERTS, ALEC BALDWIN, RHYS IFANS, HUGH BONNEVILLE, TIM MCINNERNY, EMMA CHAMBERS, GINA MCKEE, DYLAN MORAN, JULIAN RHIND-TUTT AND MISCHA BARTON.
‘You don’t even have a kid, do you???’
‘They were singing, with their eyes closed…!’
‘But driving fast behind the ambulance was fantastic…!’
‘Look who’s coming round the bend, it’s Santa and his reindeer friends…!’
‘But let’s say that I’m wrong, and you’re right, and that there’s this whole world going on out there for Marcus that I’m not even aware of … what are you going to do about it?’
These two films go so well together. Hugh Grant, he of the floppy hair, expensive education and posh British accent, is the male lead in both films. In ABOUT A BOY, a truly uplifting, heartwarming and funny film, he plays Will Freeman. Will, in his own words, is an island. He is Ibiza. Let me explain.
Will kids himself that he’s happy as he is. He doesn’t have to work, living as he does off the royalties from a Christmas song his deceased father penned years ago. He spends his days watching television, listening to music and getting his hair cut.
Will lives alone in his fancy flat, togged out with all the mod cons. He sleeps with women but doesn’t let them get too close. He depends on no-one, and no-one depends on him. That’s the way he likes it, and that’s how he intends things to stay.
Until, one day, his new underhanded plan to use single mothers as an endless source of free sex and undying gratitude leads him to cross paths with Marcus Brewer, the troubled, lonely teenage son of Fiona Brewer, a suicidal vegetarian (I don’t think there’s a connection bewtween the two states, lol!). Fiona’s a member of local support group SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together!).
Marcus’s life is a bit shit at the moment, what with being bullied at school for being ‘uncool’ and having to deal with his mum’s depression and suicide attempts. Marcus takes to Will and latches on to him like a limpet.
Will is annoyed and irritated at first, then he realises that he can’t just walk away from Marcus the way he walks away from everything else. All of a sudden, he feels responsible for another human being, and the feeling won’t go away.
His decision to help Marcus out and stand up for him, against both the bullies and his well-meaning but misguided mother, will take both their lives into strange but exciting new places, including, for Will, straight into the arms of the truly drop-gorgeous Rachel Weisz, so in no way should he be complaining…!
Highlights include Fiona finding out that Marcus has been going round Will’s house every day after school (‘You go round his house every day after school?’) and being bought cool new trainers by Will (‘He bought you cool new trainers?’), and totally mistrusting Will’s motives.
There’s also Will and Marcus performing a show-stopping duet together at the school concert, and terrific comic actress Rosalind Knight making a cameo performance as Lindsey’s mum: ‘Shake your ass?/Sheik Yourass? Is he Moroccan?’ and ‘Are you a professional Santa? How lovely!’
In NOTTING HILL, Hugh Grant plays another Will; this time William Thacker who owns a travel bookshop in Notting Hill, London. He has a sort of on-off romance with Julia Roberts, who is basically playing herself.
She’s Anna Scott, a big famous Hollywood movie superstar whose face is literally everywhere, and she meets Old Floppy Hair when she strolls casually into his bookshop one day.
Hugh Grant falls head-over-heels in love with her straightaway, while Anna revels in spending some relaxing down-time with William because she can be herself with him, away from the glare of the cameras.
The cameras can’t do without their fix of Anna Scott for long, however, and so soon enough the paparazzi begin to intrude on her life with William to the point where William gets dumped, and none too ceremoniously, either, because Anna has a big famous obnoxious Hollywood boyfriend (played by Alec Baldwin) and a big famous Hollywood career, away from Notting Hill.
William’s thirty-something dinner party friends, his wacky sister Honey (played by the late Emma Chambers) and his zany housemate Spike (Rhys Ifans) end up having to persuade William that sometimes you have to take a chance on love. Even when the odds are stacked against you…
So, if Anna Scott can just get her priorities straight and see her way to dating, or even marrying, a non-Hollywood-superstar like Will Thacker, then we’ll be all set. Or will we…? The path of true love never did run too smooth, you know…!
Irish comedian Dylan Moran (BLACK BOOKS) has a very funny cameo in this as Rufus the thief, and I love the bit where William goes to visit Anna in her hotel but ends up being mistaken for her interviewer from HORSE AND HOUND magazine.
William: ‘Um, are there many horses in your new picture?’
Anna: ‘Erm, not many, as it’s, erm, set in outer space…!’
Classic stuff. A great laugh, if not as funny as ABOUT A BOY, and well worth your time during this, or any other, lockdown. Happy viewing.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.