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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that About a Boy is a 2002 movie based on a novel by Nick Hornby in which Hugh Grant plays a self-centered playboy who starts to become a better person after meeting a misfit 14-year-old with a depressed and suicidal mother. There's some strong language (including two uses of "f--k"), including profanity used by teenagers. Some sexual references (Will is an unabashed love-'em-and-leave-'em guy). A parent is clinically depressed and attempts suicide, and her child feels responsible. Another child becomes hysterical about the prospect of his mother dating. Marcus' mother fears that Will has an improper interest in Marcus. There are some brief molestation insinuations. Characters drink and smoke.
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What's the story?
ABOUT A BOY, based on the book of the same name by Nick Hornby, is the story of a shallow man appropriately named Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) who wants to live life entirely self-contained with no reason to form attachments of any kind. Will's plan to avoid romantic emotional entanglements: single mothers. He decides it's the perfect relationship; they have low expectations and a sympathetic listener can get pretty far with them. So he pretends to be a single parent himself, makes up a 2-year-old son, and attends a support group in order to meet them. At a group picnic, Will meets a 14-year-old named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult). Marcus is isolated but does not want to be. His single mother is severely depressed and even the outcasts at school think he is too much of a dork to hang out with. Marcus just shows up at Will's home every afternoon to watch television and ultimately insists on becoming the closest thing to a friend that Will has ever known.
Is it any good?
The plot may sound like manipulative claptrap from a made-for-TV movie, but the theme has so much appeal that even a lousy script and poor production values can't completely destroy it. But when it's done well -- or even very, very well, as it is here -- it turns into a purely satisfying and enjoyable film.
We know from Bridget Jones's Diary and even Small Time Crooks that Hugh Grant relishes playing a cad. Freed from the obligation to be the perfect boyfriend of Notting Hill-type movies, he gives us a superb performance of great honesty and subtlety and flawless comedy timing. There is a lot in About a Boy for teens and parents to enjoy and discuss.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the roles of friendship and other relationships in About a Boy and in our lives. Why is it important to Will not to have any relationships? Why are the kids in school so mean to Marcus? How does Will's relationship with Marcus make him more interested in one with Rachel?
How are Will and Marcus alike, and how are they different? Is it right for Marcus to believe that it's his responsibility to make his mother feel better? What kind of grown-up will Marcus be? How does helping Marcus change Will's feelings about him?
Talk about the definition of "girlfriend" that Will and Marcus discuss -- and Marcus' idea about the importance of having back-up.
Talk about depression and its causes and treatments. What can you do if you or someone you know is depressed?
- In theaters: May 17, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: January 14, 2003
- Cast: Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette
- Directors: Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Book Characters, Misfits and Underdogs, Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Empathy, Humility
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: brief strong language and some thematic elements
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.