“The Only Living Boy in New York” is a coming-of-age comedy in which a self-absorbed, directionless young postgrad sleeps with his father’s mistress, seeks advice from a mysterious alcoholic sage, and attends upscale literati dinner parties where guests bemoan the Big Apple’s loss of soul.
It’s as shallow and false as it sounds.
The film seems intended as a contemporary version of “The Graduate” combined with a cosmic fairy tale. But, as presented by director Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”) and, especially, screenwriter Allan Loeb, its realistic and magical elements fail individually and prove vastly incompatible.
Thomas (Callum Turner) is a 20-something aspiring writer and recent college grad with a well-off book-publisher father (Pierce Brosnan), a clinically depressed artistic mother (Cynthia Nixon), issues stemming from privilege, and a close friend named Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), whom he’s crazy about but who won’t have sex with him.
Immobilized by ennui and uncertainty, and stung by his father’s assessment of his fiction writing as “serviceable,” Thomas is shaken from his inertia when discovering that his dad has a mistress — a freelance editor and wounded femme fatale named Johanna (Kate Beckinsale).
Furious at his father for his marital infidelity, Thomas stalks Johanna, hoping to persuade her to end the relationship. Instead, Thomas, too, begins an affair with her.
Also robbing Thomas of his naivete is W.F. Gerald (Jeff Bridges), an all-seeing alcoholic neighbor who’s made Thomas his mission. Gerald dispenses advice about life and love to get Thomas on track.
The literati banter, Simon and Garfunkel tunes, 35mm cinematography, and dinner-party cameo by Wallace Shawn indicate that Webb has tried to make a sophisticated, witty, prestigious-looking comedy with “Graduate” throwback elements and a Woody Allen or Noah Baumbach vibe.
Unfortunately, though, the story consists almost entirely of mediocre coming-of-age and male-fantasy material, along with fabular corn that seals the movie’s doom. It has horrible one-liners and characters repeatedly uttering dull phrases.
Gerald — one of those movie sages who seem to have fallen from both a barstool and the heavens simultaneously — is a ridiculous cliche.
A head-shaking twist rivals its counterpart in last year’s “Collateral Beauty” (also penned by Loeb) for ludicrousness.
In the unembraceable Thomas role, Turner doesn’t convey any qualities, like buried passion or even literary talent, that might enable viewers to care about this rich kid who says things like “New York’s most vibrant neighborhood at the moment is Philadelphia.”
Bridges, however, gives his contrived character an engaging personality despite an utter lack of credibility, and Nixon delivers genuine emotion in the role of Thomas’ mother, who is defined, too often, as “fragile.”
The only truly worthy lines come from Bob Dylan, whose “Visions of Johanna” is on the soundtrack.
Thomas’ name comes from a featured Simon and Garfunkel song, but for a far more enjoyable comedy titled after a tune by the pair, see “Baby Driver.”
The Only Living Boy in New York
One and a half stars
Starring Callum Turner, Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan
Written by Allan Loeb
Directed by Marc Webb
Running time 1 hour, 28 minutes