"The Only Living Boy in New York" is the bourgeois, unseemly story of a recent college grad, Thomas Webb (Callum Turner), who finds out that his handsome, publisher father, Ethan Webb (Pierce Brosnan) is having an affair with a beautiful and much younger literary agent, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). Attempting to break them up, Thomas follows Johanna, then sleeps with her. Are you shocked? Not a bit, you say. Are you bored? Yep.
Thomas' long-suffering mother --- and Ethan's wife --- Judith (Cynthia Nixon) is a depressed chain smoker. Once a recognized artist, she is now reduced to holding splendid dinner parties to assuage her loneliness. She depends upon Thomas way too much, and it is because of her that Thomas is determined to ruin Ethan's relationship with Johanna.
All this and the fact that the girl of his dreams, Mimi (Kiersey Clemens), has a boyfriend and has no interest in pursuing a more serious dalliance with Thomas, even though they slept together once.
To boot, Thomas' new neighbor, W. F. Gerald (Jeff Bridges), is the heralded writer Thomas has aspirations of becoming. Despite all of the machinations swirling around Thomas, he and W. F. manage to become good friends, with W. F. taking on the role of mentor to Thomas.
This screenplay by Allan Loeb is about as unimaginative as they come. While I was watching this film I kept wondering to myself how this even got made. The cinematography by Stuart Dryburg is terrific --- New York looks exceedingly lovely.
The cast is an impressive array of talent. Brosnan and Bridges shine the brightest. They transcend the ridiculous script, defining their roles despite the sometimes very awkward dialogue. Brosnan has a particularly strong scene when Ethan learns that Thomas has been bedding his bride-to-be.
Alas, Nixon and Beckinsale are given little to emote. I think both of these women are superb actors, but, as I've said many times before, if the script is poorly constructed, there isn't much an actor can do about it, but do their best. Judith is truly a less-than-sympathetic character, so we find ourselves cheering Ethan on as he tries to find true love.
Beckinsale is so incredibly beautiful, it's difficult to believe she, as Johanna, would stoop to sleeping with an immature child such as Thomas. What Loeb has written is terribly trite and predictable.
Regarding Turner and his performance, I'm convinced somewhere along in his career, someone must have told him he resembles a young Richard Gere. I don't see it, but from his near Gere-like impersonation, this is what I surmised. He's trying so hard to exact Gere's facial expressions, head turns, sideways glances, etc., that it drove me crazy throughout "The Only Living Boy in New York". He is not --- nor will he ever be --- as suave and nuanced as Gere. I definitely did not care for his performance.
If you prefer your movies all nicely tied up in the end with a sparkly bow, then you may find "The Only Living Boy in New York" pleasing. Personally, I think Loeb goes a step too far in giving the audience a marvelously happy ending.
"The Only Living Boy in New York" does have exceptional original music by Rob Simonsen. But that and pretty pictures of New York City do not constitute a decent film. "The Only Living Boy in New York" is hugely disappointing.
Opinion: Don't Bother!
I knew "The Only Living Boy in New York" would have a great soundtrack based on the Simon and Garfunkel title, but it has a bit more to offer than that. The old saga of a younger man carrying on with an older woman gets the usual treatment here, but with a twist.
The woman in question, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale) is actually the mistress of Ethan Webb (Pierce Brosnan), who is the father of the younger man, Thomas (Callum Turner). This is not the first film to deal with marital infidelity where the mistress latches on to the cheatin' husband's offspring, but I found it reasonably effective.
Jeff Bridges plays W. F Gerald, Thomas' alcoholic neighbor, and a writer. He's a bit of a mystery, i.e., why are a new college graduate and a crusty older guy such good friends? Bridges generally seems to play Bridges --- that is, the same persona in every role --- and his performance here is like that.
The script is decent enough to hold your interest (well, definitely not Jeanne's). When Ethan inevitably discovers the truth about Thomas and Johanna, the look on her face says it all --- a great bit of acting by Beckinsale. All the loose ends are resolved by the end of the movie, which I found refreshing. Too many films leave it up to the viewer to speculate on what ultimately transpires.
Director Marc Webb helmed a couple of Spider-Man movies, but his best known claim-to-fame is the 2009 hit "500 Days of Summer". While "The Only Living Boy in New York" is not nearly on a par with that film, at least it doesn't overstay its welcome at a crisp 88 minutes. And there is always that toe-tappin' soundtrack.
Opinion: Wait for DVD