Susan Granger’s review of “The Only Living Boy in New York” (Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions)
“Something’s missing, and we all feel it…” are the words that cryptically introduce this coming-of-age story about a wannabe fiction writer who becomes involved with his father’s mistress.
Lifting its title from the famous Simon & Garfunkel 1970 song, the story revolves around Thomas Webb (Callum Turner), the privileged, twentysomething son of artistic, emotionally fragile Judith (Cynthia Nixon) and arrogant Ethan (Pierce Brosnan), a prominent publisher.
While his erudite parents host frequent dinner parties for Manhattan’s literati at their spacious Upper West Side brownstone, preppy Tom prefers to live in a Lower East Side walk-up, pining for artsy Mimi Pastori (Kiersey Clemons), who already has boy-friend whom she’s planning to join in Croatia.
After some coaxing, lovesick Tom confides his heartache to an inquisitive, garrulous neighbor, W.F. Gerald (Jeff Bridges), an alcoholic author who’s more than willing to offer ambiguous philosophical advice, becoming Tom’s coach/therapist while deriding New York’s gentrification.
Whiny Tom’s equilibrium is further challenged when he inadvertently discovers that his father is having an affair with a sexy British editor, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). Curious, Tom starts stalking mercurial Johanna and soon they’re also squirming between the sheets.
Screenwriter Allan Loeb (“The Space Between Us,” “Collateral Beauty”) and director Marc Webb (“(500) Days of Summer,” “Gifted”) present a concept that’s distinctly derivative, borrowing liberally from similarly themed films, like “The Graduate,’ “Wonder Boys,” “The Squid and the Whale” – while delivering an implausible third-act twist.
Although the glibly cosmopolitan characters are only superficially developed, pros like Jeff Bridges (who also serves as executive producer), Pierce Brosnan, and Cynthia Nixon bring far more to the screen than is on the written page – with adroit support from Wallace Shawn, Debi Mazar and Tate Donovan.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Only Living Boy in New York” is a shallow, wryly sordid 6. As Brosnan’s character would put it: “It’s serviceable.”