The Only Living Boy in New York
Woody Allen Light
Director Marc Webb had a big hit with his first feature, 2009’s (500) Days of Summer, and like most young directors these days who have a big hit right out of the gate, he was offered the keys to a blockbuster franchise. But the Amazing Spider-Man films felt more like studio projects than they did a vision of their director and so it is nice that in 2017, Webb returns to smaller projects with not one, but two new films. The first was the charming, heartstring-puller Gifted, released earlier this year and the second is The Only Living Boy in New York, a Woody Allen-esque, New York City-based drama.
The movie stars relative newcomer Callum Turner as Thomas Webb, the titular boy in New York. Thomas is a young, aspiring writer who is the son of a prominent publisher and his socialite wife. He is hoping to develop a romantic relationship with a woman named Mimi, but she is insistent that they should remain in the friend zone. The newcomer in Thomas’ life is a strange new neighbor who calls himself W.F. Gerald and takes an immediate interest in Thomas and his love life.
While attending a show, Thomas and Mimi spot his father with an attractive younger woman who is not Thomas’ mother. He begins to follow this young woman, but is spotted immediately. After a little back and forth, the two of them end up beginning an affair. If you are keeping track, that means that Thomas is having an affair with the woman who is having an affair with Thomas’s father.
The movie feels very much like a New York City movie made for people who live and work in the city and for that reason, it feels somewhat distant to this writer, who grew up and lives in the suburbs all the way on the other side of the country. With characters meeting in trendy places and having intellectual New York-inspired conversation, it feels like a Woody Allen movie, but without Allen’s sense of humor to make it more relatable.
The movie also relies a lot on a plot reveal that comes in the final act that felt completely out of the blue and unearned. It is as if more than eighty percent of the way through the movie, the story suddenly became about something else. It could have worked if it felt set up at all and perhaps a second viewing may reveal some well hidden hints along the way, but as it is, it does not have quite the emotional impact that it should.
The performances are fine. Callum Turner comes off as something of a poor man’s James Franco at times, but he is surrounded by a terrific supporting cast that includes Pierce Brosnan and Cynthia Nixon as his parents. Jeff Bridges is always a win and he plays the mysterious neighbor as if Jeffrey Lebowski moved east and became a prominent New York novelist. Kiersey Clemons is very charming as Mimi and you could see why Thomas would want to form a relationship with her. Kate Beckinsale is good as the mistress Johanna, even if her character’s motivations are never quite clear.
The movie is, of course, named after a Simon & Garfunkel song (the second movie to do that this year after Baby Driver) and the song shows up in the middle of the film, but even it feels out of place, and ironically worked better in the New Jersey set Garden State.
The Only Living Boy in New York has some interesting elements to it, but unfortunately it falls rather flat. The movie lacks both (500) Days of Summer’s quirky charm and Gifted’s emotional pull, leaving it to feel like a movie that keeps itself an arm’s length away from its audience.
The Only Living Boy in New York is rated R for “language and some drug material.” I was surprised to find that this movie was an R. I’m sure there was some language and sexual content, but little more than you would find in your typical PG-13 movie.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attempted a promotional screening of The Only Living Boy in New York.