The Only Living Boy In New York
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…all surface, no substance.
“New York ain’t what it used to be,” our main character, Thomas, laments as he sits on his fire escape reading classics. And yet, it is. Because you’re still an unlikable artsy white guy who can somehow afford to rent an apartment in the city by yourself, despite never really working during the entire film.
The Only Living Boy in New York stars Callum Turner (Green Room) as Thomas Webb, a twenty-something writer who is drifting through life, chasing his dream girl (Kiersey Clemons) and befriending his mysterious neighbour W. F. Gerald (Jeff Bridges). Thomas is really only certain of one thing: he doesn’t want to end up like his father, elite publisher Ethan Webb (Pierce Brosnan). But when he finds out that his father is having an affair, he discovers that perhaps they are more similar than he thought, as he enters his own forbidden relationship with his father’s mistress Johanna (Kate Beckinsale).
The film is consistently eye-rolling, leaning heavily on the wandering poet cliché, claiming to boast pseudo-intellectual ideas about artists and young people that don’t really extend beyond Thomas having a severe case of daddy issues. And this is likely done to mask the fact that, in the film, nothing happens until the very end; of course, this would be okay if it had anything new, or really anything, to say, but alas, it does not. Instead we follow around self-obsessed character after self-obsessed character bemoaning their terrible, middle class existence, complaining about how art is dead in a city where it really isn’t.
Yet in amongst all these unlikable characters is Jeff Bridges, who gives a layered, intriguing performance as Thomas’ wise neighbour W. F. His story is certainly the highlight of the film, as not only is his character tragic and complex, likeable and sincere, but he also manages to end the film with a satisfying twist that even makes Thomas a smidge more likeable.
Unfortunately for the rest of the characters, they go nowhere, learn nothing, and instead we are left with clichés. There’s the quintessential selfish father, the manic-depressive mother played by Cynthia Nixon (who is actually one of the more relatable and sympathetic characters), the typical artistic ‘nobody understands me’ protagonist, and not one, but two Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man) specialties – the Manic Pixie Dream Girls, this time filled by Kate Beckinsale and Kiersey Clemons.
The Only Living Boy In New York is all surface, no substance.