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Literature: About a Boy

About a Boy is a 1998 novel by Nick Hornby, made into a film starring Hugh Grant in 2002 with a soundtrack album by Badly Drawn Boy. In early 2014, NBC started a TV series with the same premise.

Apathetic bachelor Will, who lives comfortably off of the royalties from a popular Christmas song his father wrote, comes up with the idea to join a Single Parents group in order to pick up single mums, despite the fact that he is childless. This starts off a chain of events in which he meets Marcus, an awkward young teenage boy being raised by a depressed, out-of-touch single mother.

Marcus is constantly bullied at school and feels alone in the world. He gloms on to Will, who merely tolerates him at first but begins to grow attached to the boy and helps him gain confidence, deal with his mother, and win the affection of an older punk rocker girl at his school. At the same time, spending time with Marcus begins to show Will just how empty his life really is.

In the end, Marcus becomes a more socially adjusted kid, Will learns to accept other people into his life, and everyone lives Happily Ever After.

Tropes:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Will after Marcus gets him the joke gift of a Single Parents handbook.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Ellie plays a much bigger role in the book.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The series burns through the entire book/movie plot in The Pilot and continues from there.
  • Artifact Title: Partly true of the movie, which loses the references to Nirvana that added to the meaning of the book title. Of course, the movie still is literally about a boy (in more ways than one).
  • Book Ends: the film both opens and closes with said quote.
    • Ironic Echo: Marcus's use of it shows that he has taken it seriously, whereas Will prefers to defy it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Early in the movie, Marcus sees a guitar in Will's flat and asks him if he uses it to write songs, but Will basically says it's just there to look cool. In the climax, Will uses a guitar to save Marcus from committing social suicide.
  • Cringe Comedy: Marcus singing "Killing Me Softly With His Song"... at first.
  • Concert Climax
  • Deadpan Snarker: Will. Naturally as it's Hugh Grant.
  • Foreign Remake: The TV series.
  • Happy Ending: Marcus becomes a more socially adjusted kid, Will learns to accept other people into his life, and everyone lives Happily Ever After.
  • Idle Rich: Will lives off royalties from his dad, a One-Hit Wonder.
  • Intergenerational Friendship
  • It's All About Me: Will though its really more due to his refusal to look for companionship than outright selfishness.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Will.
  • Man Child: Will though more mature than most other versions.
  • Must Have Lots of Free Time: Will, but it's justified.
  • Narrator: both Will and Marcus provide voice-overs.
  • Never Heard That One Before: No, Will is not tired of all the people singing "Santa's Super Sleigh" once they learn his father wrote it.
  • Parental Substitute: Will reluctantly spends time with Marcus at first, but eventually evolves into a sort of father figure to him.
  • Pick Up Babes With Babes
  • Race for Your Love: film only, while Fiona parks the car.
  • Revised Ending: Owing to the film's new chronological setting, its ending is completely different from the book's. To wit: instead of an altercation at a police station and a Take That at Joni Mitchell, Marcus uses the Concert Climax to sing his mother's favorite song in the hopes of cheering her up, with Will as last-second back-up.
  • Romantic Comedy: zigzagged trope. It uses most of the plot structure, including the Second Act Breakup, but the "couple" are Will and Marcus. Arguably a Bromantic Comedy, though it has a much more refined tone.
  • School Study Media: One of the more recent books studied in UK secondary schools.
  • Shout-Out: The title is an homage to both the Nirvana song "About a Girl" and Patti Smith's Kurt Cobain tribute "About a Boy." The book makes countless references to Nirvana and Cobain (Ellie idolizes Cobain, Marcus thinks Cobain is a British athlete named Kirk O'Bain, Cobain dies near the end of the book). Due to being a slight Setting Update, the movie omits these references entirely.
  • The Slacker: Will.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: With a ho, ho, ho and a hey, hey, hey, It's Santa's super sleigh ♪
  • Uncle Pennybags: Whilst he is nowhere near as rich as most of the examples, Will is able to afford a really nice apartment in the middle of London and really is fun to be around, despite never having a job thanks to the royalties from his dad's song.
  • Wham Line: In the movie, this line to Will:
    Marcus: "You don't give a shit about anyone, and nobody gives a shit about you."
  • Wham Scene: The movie starts out funny and lighthearted until Marcus and Will come home from the park to find that Marcus's mum has just attempted suicide.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Marcus is a very dark version. His lack of a father figure, unstable mother and overall miserable life means that he has had to learn to be emotionally mature long before he should have.

2666Lit FicAbsalom, Absalom!
1941Creator/UniversalAmerican Graffiti
A Life Less OrdinaryRomantic ComedyAlong Came Polly
    Literature of the 1990sAcorna Series
Two Thousand And Nine Lost MemoriesFilms of 2000 - 2004 About Schmidt

alternative title(s): About A Boy
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