Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom/USA/France/Germany, 2002. Universal Pictures, StudioCanal, Tribeca Productions, Working Title Films, Cinema Vehicle Services. Screenplay by Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz, based on the novel by Nick Hornby. Cinematography by Remi Adefarasin. Produced by Tim Bevan, Robert De Niro, Brad Epstein, Eric Fellner, Jane Rosenthal. Music by Badly Drawn Boy. Production Design by Jim Clay. Costume Design by Joanna Johnston. Film Editing by Nick Moore. Academy Awards 2002. Golden Globe Awards 2002.
Just call it Barry Jones’s Diary. This perfect companion piece to Helen Fielding’s comedy classic is about a Peter Pan-complexed near-forty year-old git (Hugh Grant) who is of no profession and lives off the bountiful royalties from a song his father wrote decades earlier. His undisturbed, solitary life that includes womanizing and endless shopping is thrown into complete turnaround, much to his chagrin, by the appearance of a young boy (marvelous newcomer Nicholas Hoult), a tyke weighed down by his not fitting in at school and the emotional turmoil of his clinically depressed single mother (Toni Collette). Becoming a Big Brother is the last thing on Grant’s mind as he thinks he has too many things to do (namely buy more useless objects for his already too-cluttered apartment), but the boy appeals to a part of him that needs a friend, and soon the two are spending lots of time together. This breezy, witty and emotionally involving but not sappy or sentimental comedy is beautifully directed by the Weitz brothers (directors of American Pie) and brilliantly acted by a subtle, totally charismatic Grant. Collette is also a standout in a role that threatens to be unappealing but in her hands is compassionate, and Rachel Weisz is gorgeous in a small appearance as Grant’s possible love interest. Hilarious situations boil down to a meaningful and moving conclusion, one that tells us all that true family is where you create it.