As far as the filmmakers behind The Only Living Boy in New York want you to think, Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) is your typical New Yorker. He feels he was born a few decades too late—he would have preferred the gritty, hard-scrabble NYC of the 1970s—is in love with a girl who just wants to be friends (Kiersey Clemons), lives in a Lower East Side walk-up so he doesn’t have the displeasure of running into his Upper West Side parents (Pierce Brosnan and Cynthia Nixon), befriends a hard-drinking novelist (Jeff Bridges) and works at a rare book store named after Vladimir Nabokov’s 999-line poem. Don’t worry if the name of Nabokov’s 999-line poem doesn’t immediately spring to mind, or what significance the temperature Fahrenheit 185 holds, The Only Living Boy is the sort of movie that wants you to know how clever it is and will explain all of its references, no matter how obvious or obscure.
Pale Fire is the name of the Nabokov poem, by the way. And you cook heroin at 185° Fahrenheit.
Written by Allan Loeb and directed by Marc Webb, The Only Living Boy in New York is one disingenuous cliché piled on top of another, right down to the Simon and Garfunkel song.
As the title suggests, The Only Living Boy revolves exclusively around Thomas, particularly the sudden rupture that occurs when Thomas discovers his father having an affair with a freelance editor (Kate Beckinsale). With nothing better to do, Thomas follows his father’s new flame, and what do you know, he falls for her. And she for him. Never mind that the British bombshell falls for the dopey son for no apparent reason. Movies don’t have to make sense. Did I mention that Thomas works part-time at a rare bookstore? And can somehow afford rent without the assistance of a roommate?
There are a few twists and turns to Thomas’s story that makes The Only Living Boy more engaging than it ought to be, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have Bridges and Beckinsale on screen, but none of it adds up. Maybe it all would have worked better as a novel. But, as the characters in the movie constantly remind the audience, nobody reads novels anymore.
The Only Living Boy in New York (2017)
Directed by Marc Webb
Written by Allan Loeb
Produced by Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa
Starring: Callum Turner, Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Kiersey Clemons, Tate Donovan, Wallace Shawn, Debi Mazar
Roadside Attractions, Rated R, Running time 89 minutes, Opens Aug. 11, 2017; streaming on Amazon Prime.