‘The Only Living Boy’: Jaded young man in a New York state of malaise
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No one is more irritating than the person eager to tell you that things aren’t as good as they used to be — except for the person who wasn’t around during that supposed Golden Age to begin with.
Nothing will ever top the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, says the fan born 30 years after the airing of the show. Maybe it’s true, but let’s give something else a chance somewhere along the line, no?
Imagine a movie built around the concept and you’ll have “The Only Living Boy in New York.” (Yes, it’s named for the Simon & Garfunkel song, and yes, they play it.)
On the plus side, there’s Jeff Bridges. That forgives a lot.
Callum Turner plays a young man of privilege who doesn’t live with his wealthy parents, who has moved to a seedier New York neighborhood than the tony one his father’s publishing money affords and who complains that “New York has lost its soul.”
Ugh. His running joke is that “New York’s most vibrant neighborhood is Philadelphia.” In the film’s defense, it never fails not to get a laugh.
Marc Webb’s film (the script is by Allan Loeb) reminded me of an old “Peanuts” cartoon, where Lucy van Pelt walks around reading a book, telling everyone who will listen how great it is. In fact, it’s the best book she’s ever read. Oh, someone asks, what other books have you read?
“This is the only one.”
Callum wants to be a writer, but his father, Ethan (Pierce Brosnan), did not offer him the support he wanted, so he’s adrift. His mother, Judith (Cynthia Nixon), is in a fragile emotional state, and much protected by Callum.
Callum pines for Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), thanks to one romantic night that was a blip to her and a life-changing event for him.
And then one night he sees his father snuggling in a club with another woman. That’s Johanna (Kate Beckinsale), and soon he’s stalking her. It turns out she knows it, and things take a turn, which won’t be the last. (Do the characters reference Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna” several times? Oh yeah. Does it play during the film? What do you think? Subtlety is not a strong suit.)
The cast is impressive, and again, Bridges is always a welcome presence. He provides a weary voiceover and plays W.F., a mysterious man who moves into Callum’s building and becomes a kind of soulful mentor. There’s a lot more to his story, of course, and it’s not particularly satisfying in terms of plot.
On the plus side, it’s Jeff Bridges, who at this point is pretty much worth watching in anything, even a film where he’s playing more of an archetype than a character.
Bill Goodykoontz, USA TODAY Network
Roadside Atractions presents a film directed by Marc Webb and written by Allan Loeb. Rated R (for language and some drug material). Running time: 88 minutes. Opens Friday at Regal Webster Place.