The Only Living Boy in New York
2017, R, 88 min. Directed by Marc Webb. Starring Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Nixon.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Sept. 1, 2017
The too-too-precious title flashes like a cautionary traffic sign. Warning: Pretentiousness and Pedantry Ahead. The Only Living Boy in New York takes place in the rarified world of Manhattan privilege, a world in which the well-to-do (and an obligatory Wallace Shawn) attend dinner parties in dining rooms the size of studio apartments and drink expensive bottles of Pinot Noir as they wittily bemoan New York City’s current lack of mystery, a soullessness evidenced by the outcropping of Urban Outfitters on every corner and the lamentable demise of CBGB, a punk club they once read about in the Village Voice but never set foot in. It’s a world in which emotionally fragile wives and mothers harboring deep secrets surreptitiously read novels on benches in Central Park. It’s a world in which aimless sons stalk their father’s much younger mistresses and then sleep with them for reasons that would stump even Freud. It’s a movie in which star-crossed lovers engage in intense conversations with desperate questions such as “Do you love him?” followed by weary responses like “Define love.” And all this without even mentioning the elderly Salinger-esque writer who sits barefoot in his unfurnished Lower East Side room and drunkenly gives paternal-like advice (a clue!) to the lovelorn. Watching this parade of insufferables, you wonder: Who are these people? And more pointedly: Who could possibly give a rat’s ass about any of them?
As the floundering young Thomas of the title, the dorkily handsome Callum Turner is utterly charmless, his predominant expression being the petulant half-smirk of a spoiled brat. You never feel an ounce of sympathy for his character’s emotional predicaments, most of which are self-inflicted. But the blame doesn’t rest entirely on Turner’s broad shoulders. Marc Webb’s direction lacks the buoyant inspiration of earlier work like 500 Days of Summer, and the dramatic (mis)construction of Allan Loeb’s screenplay exists solely for the purpose of an anticlimactic revelation clumsily unveiled at the end of the film. Having to endure these self-absorbed New Yorkers for 90 minutes is hardly worth this meh twist. All that navel-gazing, and so much lint.