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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
About a Boy
About a Boy

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)


MARK LAWSON:
Tom Paulin, it is an odd plot, this middle-aged man who preys on single mothers and befriends an 11-year-old. Can you make a romantic comedy out of that?

TOM PAULIN:
I think you can. The treatment of the single mothers is disgraceful, made into menagerie. It is an essay film, no man is an island, the done line is run through it. Male emotional literacy as in Four Weddings and a Funeral. Male fear of emotion and anxiety. That all runs in it. It is well acted, largely, I think. Hugh Grant with the crop hair style, which I like, is trying to push his acting abilities a bit further, I think. I'm not sure that he entirely succeeds in that. But it is interesting to watch him try.

CRAIG BROWN:
I like the single mothers thing. It is like Mike Leigh.

PAULIN:
It jarred, the support group.

BROWN:
It did. But one of the strengths of the film is that you take this, the original Hugh Grant view, at the beginning of the film, very detached, cynical and he does this speaking over, speaking his thoughts over previous dialogue. That is very cynical. With the single mothers group, it personifies that side of it, in that you first see them as this awful kind of nightly gaggle of ugly women, basically. But then they get warmer and suddenly the mother of the boy becomes rather sympathetic.

PAULIN:
She does, yes.

BROWN:
The film moves from seeing them as cynical, unpleasant people, you wouldn't want to be in a room with, that you warm to.

GERMAINE GREER:
Well, now. Ahem! I doubt very much that Hugh Grant can get very much older. Boyishness is all he has. It was getting creaky here. The side-long glances, the being cute, none of that really worked. He is befriended by a child with the worst hair cut. If anybody had any human warmth they should have done something about it.

BROWN:
But that is the point.

GREER:
Yes, I know. All Hugh Grant does for him is buy him a pair of trainers then they get stolen and then I seem to notice they're not replaced. It is a very peculiar film. The idea is that any man, even one as empty-headed and useless as the character played by Hugh Grant will understand a boy child better than his mother. He can be a great father just out of instinct, because he knows what the kid wants.

BROWN:
It says in the film he remembers his own childhood. He hasn't grown up.

GREER:
Your childhood is not another child's childhood.

PAULIN:
If you are in touch with your childhood then you can communicate with children I think.

MARK LAWSON:
Not the innerchild, all that stuff again!

GREER:
Obviously these women are not in touch with their childhood's.

BROWN:
Your mother entirely understood you?

GREER:
No, no. That is a really crappy ploy. No!

LAWSON:
Stick with the film for the minute.

GREER:
I thought the film...

BROWN:
You were saying it was inconceivable that a man could understand a boy better than his own mother.

GREER:
No, I didn't say that. Hang on just a minute! He doesn't want to relate to the child. He is dealing with the child in his spare time with spare mental energy. Yet his instincts regarding the child are correct. Whereas practically all the women's instincts regarding their children. Every woman has screwed up.

BROWN:
It was a fiction, one mother, one son, one man. It wasn't political.

GREER:
No, no. Remember, the other son who is so screwed up, Ali, the kid who does the breakdancing in the concert? It is a superficially beguiling film, empty and basically nasty.

BROWN:
It is very funny, also.

GREER:
It is not funny.

BROWN:
Everyone was laughing in the audience.

GREER:
Tom didn't think it was funny.

LAWSON:
It doesn't have a viewpoint, which is the thing that I think is wrong with it. There is a key scene at the end where they sing a song at a concert. It is never clear whether it is supposed to be hideously embarrassing.

BROWN:
I had seen A Beautiful Mind last week which ends with everyone applauding him. I thought it was a contradiction of the Hollywood premise that everyone applauds you. It shows life as complex, very embarrassing, a small triumph. I thought it was rather interesting. A mainstream film to do such a complex thing.

See also:

05 Apr 02 | Panel
18 Apr 02 | Panel
26 Apr 02 | Panel
26 Apr 02 | Panel
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