Thursday, February 19, 2015

Marxist Movie Reviews 02: About a Boy (2002)

Welcome to Marxist Movie Reviews, a series that attempts to look at modern and classic films from the perspective of what they say about society and social conflict. This point of view has historically been left to the academic world. However, this kind of analysis can provide anyone who enjoys movies with insights into the messages they deliver.

The Basic Plot: A single man in London develops a friendship with a troubled boy, a relationship that helps the man work through his own personal issues

The Best Part(s): the writing

Now that Hugh Grant is no longer a big star, it's easier to see that this film hasn't aged well in the decade since it's release. A general vibe that seemed hip and clever back in 2002 now feels forced and false. What is even more clear is the way the story disparages the condition of being single.

The main character is an easy stereotype of the rich, shallow, womanizing, self-centered bachelor who must be humanized by traditional domesticity, in this case, a dependent young boy with a suicidal mother. Money, health, an active social life are not enough to be an adult, the film seems to be saying. In order for someone to "grow up" and be truly happy, one must construct a family, or at least as close to a traditional family as one can get. This is the underlying message for a lot of mass-market movies.

The film makers don't seem to have a lot of affection for left-leaning "weirdos" who skew toward more alternative lifestyles. Toni Collette does a good job with a thankless role as as granola harpy who dresses like a thrift store threw up on her. Other characters in her orbit are basically presented as the kinds of oddballs and losers who turn-of-the-21st-century London yuppies might have a good laugh over.

The young boy Marcus is tow-headed and precocious in just the right places. Between him and Grant's character, it's easy to see who the "boy" is and who's providing the life-lessons about responsibility and human contact. In Hollywood, a child's innocence is worth more than gold.

My Rating: in 2003, 7/10 ("Liked It"); in 2015, 4/10 (“Didn't Like It”)

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