The Only Living Boy in New York, Marc Webb’s second film of the year after Gifted, is both a surprise and an expected move from the filmmaker.
After directing a big budget franchise that has since been dragged through the mud and rebooted (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), I don’t blame Webb for wanting to revisit smaller character dramas. The Only Living Boy in New York makes us remember Webb’s debut, (500) Days of Summer, based on the film’s unorthodox romance and its attempt at sophistication. What’s surprising though is the film’s absence of cleverness and sense of humour. I didn’t like (500) Days of Summer because it tried too hard to impress its audience with various styles and smiles, but I’ll gladly take that film’s forced twee over the insufferable snobbiness that is at large throughout The Only Living Boy in New York.
Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) is shook up when his “gal pal” Mimi (Dope’s Kiersey Clemons) reveals a trip she’ll be taking, and follows this news up with a request for emotional distance. She still wants to be friends and Thomas is certainly open to staying connected, but she won’t be able to make him feel whole. He broods up and down New York City in ways lovesick college grads who attend fancy parties only do. His despair gets worse when he discovers his father (Pierce Brosnan) is cheating on his partner (Cynthia Nixon) with mistress Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). Thomas is conflicted, however, when his enraged confrontations with Johanna become impassioned and sexually charged.
Marc Webb could have made this creepy premise somewhat appealing. He does, of course, executive produce The CW’s often brilliant comedy/musical Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a TV show about a manic woman who targets an old summer camp fling to fall in love with her. The Only Living Boy in New York doesn’t need to be as absurd as that show, but it needs humour to get by and side with the already apprehensive audience. Its only vessel of amusement is through a slick neighbour played by Jeff Bridges, but even Bridges portrays the codger as a wise soul.
The Only Living Boy in New York is so stiff, you’ll wonder if screenwriter Allan Loeb (The Space Between Us) sprained his raised pinky as he wrote the straight-laced sophistication. And if you were wondering, yes, they do play that Simon & Garfunkel song.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie