I can find no word to describe this film other than charming. Written by the living master of the “men behaving badly, but trying to get better” style, Nick Hornby (High Fidelity); this film introduces us to Will, played by Hugh Grant. A loafer, living off the royalties of a popular Christmas tune written by his father, Will has created the ultimate bachelor life of temporary relationships and comfortable solitude. After an odd revelation, he begins to pursue single mothers for his romantic flings. This brings him into contact with twelve year old Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) and his troubled, suicidal mother Fiona, expertly played by the versatile Toni Collette. Together, Nicholas and Will help each other to become the men they want to be.
This story could have been a predictable retelling of the innumerable romantic comedies that it resembles. However, the courage not to sugar coat the characters makes this film one of the better films of 2002. The directors, Chris and Paul Weitz, better known for their sophomoric hit comedy American Pie, demonstrate that they are a new force is humor films. The style of the film is straight forward and unremarkable, but it is this very clean style that allows a good cast to tell a story of charming humanity.
Hugh Grant, long known for his “English Fop” roles continues to grow as an actor, like he did in Bridget Jones’s Diary, to being able to play roles of depth and subtlety. Newcomer Nicholas Hoult gives a remarkable performance. I often cringe when watching what qualifies a child acting in films following in the wake of the rise of the dreadful Macaulay Culkin. However, Nicholas Hoult is an adult and professional actor in the body of a twelve year old boy. Finally, Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding, The Sixth Sense) proves once again, that she can take on characters with such expertness and skill that she is one of the film world’s undiscovered diamonds.
Now, this is not a “deep” film that illustrates some great revelation about the state of mankind. Nor is the script such that you won’t know how this whole story will work out. But between the witty dialog and good performances, it will certainly leave you with a smile.