By Kim Hughes
At once weirdly charming and patently ridiculous, new dramedy The Only Living Boy in New York asks its audience to suspend much disbelief in order to access its very starry cast, all on point and fully committed to the job as if wanting this movie to be better could actually make it so.
When we first meet college-age, would-be novelist Thomas (Callum Turner), he is suffering from terminal ennui, a rocky relationship with his wealthy parents, and is knock-kneed over pal Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) who is indifferent, already dating someone else and headed to Croatia in any event.
Enter hard-drinking W.F. Gerald (Jeff Bridges) who conveniently lands at Thomas’ pseudo-slummy Lower East Side apartment building — all the better to annoy Thomas’ chic, Upper West Side–dwelling parents — just in time to spout platitudes intended to shake Thomas from his existential stupor.
Some stuff happens and then some other stuff happens and then Thomas and Mimi spot Thomas’ dad (Pierce Brosnan) canoodling with the very comely Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). Some other stuff happens, Lou Reed gets mournfully namechecked, and suddenly Thomas is sleeping with Johanna who, despite being “irresistible” in Thomas’ doe-eyed estimation, is somehow sexually drawn to her married lover’s sullen and spiritually adrift son. Who is a ringer for a young Richard Gere. But still.
Then more stuff happens, and a so-ludicrous-it’s-fabulous plot twist involving Thomas’ fragile mom (Cynthia Nixon), his dad and W.F. is revealed and, well… how about that New York City in the rain?
Perhaps most disappointing about the film is what could have been. It’s as if director Marc Webb (see the Andrew Garfield-era Spider-Man franchise) can’t move beyond the realm of fantasy. This time, his superhero is a grizzled drunk with a library card. Not quite the same thing.
The Only Living Boy in New York. Directed by Marc Webb. Written by Allan Loeb. Starring Callum Turner, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kate Beckinsale and Cynthia Nixon. Opens Friday, August 25 in Toronto and Vancouver and in other cities throughout the summer/fall.
An entertainment/lifestyle writer and editor of an exquisite vintage, Kim has written about film, music, books, food, wine, cosmetics and cars for the Toronto Star, NOW Magazine, Report on Business, Amazon.com, hmv, Salon, Elevate, CBC, Spafax and many other marquee properties. She lives in Toronto and is a proud volunteer with Annex Cat Rescue.