When it comes to media, most audiences want more of the same. Superhero stories are the bulk of action movies nowadays. Unfunny Rom-Coms are a must. And horror movies are as cliché as they are ridiculous.
People do not want to be challenged or have their beliefs challenged, least of all from a movie. (Frankly, I can relate. The reason I don’t like Despicable Me 2 so much is that it pushed my tolerance for pain far beyond what I would have believed possible.)
But, for the most part, I believe that it is good to challenge one’s own beliefs and see if they are worth standing for. To do otherwise would mean becoming a sheep. And sheep are baaaah-ad.
So, you must expect a certain amount of backlash when it comes to counter-cultural messages. You will see critics and audience members coming up with reasons to dislike any movie that displays such a message. It might be the story, acting, or character development. But I have often found that this is what they are really saying: “I disagree with the message [or it makes me uncomfortable] so I will try to come up with any plausible reason to criticize it.”
You can observe this in virtually any Rottentomatoes review of a religious movie of the Catholic persuasion. This works in reverse, as well. Religious people will often feel obligated to wear their rose-colored glasses when viewing movies made by other devoutly religious people.
I think it is healthy, though, to have a certain amount of perspective. Objectively A Man for All Seasons was a fantastic movie, even though it was a religious movie. Netflix’s Punisher series was somewhat entertaining, even though it was glorifying a murderer. And About a Boy deserves more praise from audiences than it received. And yes, that really is going to be my segue into talking about the movie.
About a Boy is actually about a man and a boy. But it is not a misnomer because the man acts like a boy. He is selfish and thinks every man is an island. The boy is having trouble at home so he befriends the man against the man’s will. Marcus (the boy) and Will (the man) become good friends and build a community of caring people along the way.
On Rottentomatoes, the critic score is at a 94% while the audience member score is at a shockingly low 54%.
I realize, of course, that people like and dislike movies based primarily on their past experience and points of reference.
For instance, as someone who has longed for a true community for my entire life, I loved the final scene when everyone came together as a group of caring people. Will didn’t just go back to being his loner self. He grew and changed into a more caring person, who was willing to let people in.
That is by no means a unique storyline, especially the part where he becomes more mature and less selfish. You can hardly throw a rock and fail to hit a movie that contains one of those elements.
But it seems that people object to this movie because of the message. This could possibly be explained by people’s insistence that the loner ideal is still possible, or, at the very least, that a parent and child would be sufficient in terms of family.
But what those people fail to see is that the two-person model is not sufficient in a lot of ways. As Marcus said: “You need three at least.” But what is best for everyone is a whole support system that can keep everyone afloat, rather than that burden being placed on the child and the child alone.
Though the community is by no means a specifically Catholic idea, it was, to a certain extent, perfected by the Catholic Church. It used to be that a person’s support system started in the family, then went to the parish, then to the diocese, then the archdiocese. Back in those times, every person would have a whole lot more than just three people to count on.
The movie also does a good job of showing how his maturing affects his relationships, especially with the women in his life. During one of the voice-over moments, he admits that he would settle for “the less and the more that Marcus had wanted,” (e.g. telling her secrets and not wanting her to have other boyfriends, while not caring whether or not he was allowed to touch her.)
This is a mentality that is not frequently shown in our modern movies which are predominantly obsessed with sex. It takes an amount of maturity unseen in most movies for a character to have enough respect for another to not always talk about wanting to jump into bed with her.
From a more technical standpoint, the reviewers do not really have a leg to stand on because the film does not contain an unimportant or wasted scene. The soundtrack is great. And, if anyone complains about there being too many scenes of people talking, remind them that this is a Hugh Grant romantic-comedy, not a Quentin Tarantino bloodfest.
Featured Image Credit: Wikipedia