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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ABOUT A BOY (2002)

Nick Hornsby’s surefire novel about a commitment-phobic, serial-dating cad who gets a life-changing wake-up call from a 12 yr-old boy who's looking for a father-figure, barely survives the hard-sell of Peter Hedges’ earnest script, as reworked by co-directors Chris & Paul Weitz. Playing the rake in this Rake’s Progress, Hugh Grant delays the onset of his character’s better angels with constant stream-of-wiseguy narration, but the filmmakers get too cute and have the kid work the same angle, moving the emotional bar from drama to plea bargaining. As directors, the Weitz sibs are big on tricky visual transition devises, which only emphasizes how scrappy everything else is. Especially, when they try to stage a scene with more than two or three people. Those with long memories may be reminded of the old Jason Robards’ vehicle, A THOUSAND CLOWNS/’65 (currently unavailable in any home video format). Like BOY, its many fans are unswayed by its basic mediocrity, but at least CLOWNS has the decency to make its 'happy' ending play out like a defeat. In this one, Hugh Grant’s sentimental Don Giovanni hedonist would have answered ‘Yes’ when the Commandatore came a'calling.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Rex Harrison is a Cad For All Seasons in Gilliat/Launder’s THE NOTORIOUS GENTLEMAN (aka THE RAKE’S PROGRESS)/’45.

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