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The Only Living Boy in New York (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

The Only Living Boy in New York


Starring Callum Turner, Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Kiersey Clemons, Tate Donovan, Wallace Shawn, Anh Duong, Debi Mazar, Ben Hollandsworth, John Bolger, Bill Camp, Richard Bekins, Ryan Speakman, Oliver Thornton, Alexander Sokovikov, Ed Jewett, Amy Hohn and John Brodeur.

Screenplay by Allan Loeb.

Directed by Marc Webb.

Distributed by Roadside Attractions. 90 minutes. Rated R.

Eight years ago, with the release of (500) Days of Summer, director Marc Webb seemed to have a bright future ahead of him. The film was opening to terrific reviews and surprisingly respectable box office. Then he took a little side-track to two unmemorable big-budget superhero flicks in The Amazing Spider-Man movies (the two Andrew Garfield movies) and a small, quickly forgotten little inspirational drama called Gifted.

None of those films had the sweet and quirky vibe which Webb brought to his breakout film. The Only Living Boy in New York (which takes its just slightly overwrought title from an old Simon & Garfunkel song) does recapture some of his mojo, but it’s not exactly a complete comeback.

The Only Living Boy in New York starts off promising, but honestly it becomes a bit too complicated – and convoluted – for its own good. Therefore, even if you enjoy the storyline, and for a great deal of the time I did, eventually you can’t help but think that what happens in unlikely, to be charitable. However, if you are willing to suspend disbelief, Only Living Boy does have some bohemian charm.

The “living boy” of the title is Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) – though he’s hardly a boy, he’s well into his 20s. He’s currently in the middle of a post-college identity crisis. He thinks he wants to become a writer, however he does not want to take advantage of the help of his father Ethan (Pierce Brosnan), who is an esteemed publisher in New York literati circles. He also has a mad crush on his bestie Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), but she keeps giving him the just-friends speech.

Thomas’ fortunes change when a mysterious-but-wise alcoholic named WF moves upstairs from Thomas’ SoHo brownstone. (Move is a generous word, WF doesn’t have any decorations and very little furniture.) WF claims that it is a second apartment and he just likes to go there to get away.

WF befriends Thomas and starts giving him life advice – how to get Mimi to like him, what to do when Thomas finds out that Ethan is having an affair with a gorgeous British editor named Johanna (Kate Beckinsale), how to live like a writer, how to avoid local hipsters, the fact that New York is dying and that Philadelphia is now its “most vibrant neighborhood.”

Thomas starts following Johanna, partly to find out what the deal is with his dad, partly to protect his mother (Cynthia Nixon), and partly to make Mimi jealous. When she recognizes him (after all, his picture is on his father’s desk), instead of acting guilty, she flirts with Thomas. Soon, they too are having an affair.

In the meantime, Thomas finds out that WF is actually a famous author, and one who has a complicated history with his parents.

Like I said before, it is an intriguing storyline that eventually spins out of control. That is not even to say that the ultimate final reveal is not a rather impressive surprise, just that upon reflection after watching the film, it seems a little too pat, a little too unlikely.

In lots of ways The Only Living Boy in New York is a rather old-fashioned feeling film, rather like Husbands and Wives-era Woody Allen; smart and rather funny, but sometimes a bit too clever for its own good.

It’s not likely to fix Marc Webb’s flagging reputation as a director, but ironically it is probably the first film since (500) Days of Summer which shows the potential which he has to be a very good filmmaker.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 25, 2017.

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