Directed by: Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
Written by: Allan Loeb (21, The Space Between Us, Just Go with It)
Producers: Albert Berger, Jeff Bridges, John Fogel, Mari Jo Winkler-Ioffreda, Ron Yerxa
Cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh
Starring: Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Jeff Bridges, Kiersey Clemons.
When Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) bemoans the fact he hasn’t done much in his twenty-something years, his new-found mentor, writer W F Gerald (Jeff Bridges) reminds him, ‘You’ve had sex with your father’s mistress. I’d say that’s something.’
And that’s sort of this film in a nutshell.
Fragile relationships, forbidden love and flawed characters.
Sadly, despite the stellar cast, this is also a flawed movie. Part The Graduate, part Barfly, The Only Living Boy in New York does not reach the heights of either of those films – but to be fair, not too many films do.
That’s not to say this film is to be avoided, there’s plenty to keep one interested for the duration.
Jeff Bridges is clearly enjoying the chance to get down and grungy; the presence of Lou Reed (through music and references) adds to the New York feel; Cynthia Nixon as Thomas’ mother and Ethan’s (Pierce Brosnan) wife is nicely understated, and there is obviously other eye candy for most audience members (Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan and Kiersey Clemons).
Thomas, a college graduate, discovers his father, Ethan, is having an affair with a beautiful colleague, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). He decides to follow her and, somehow, for some reason, and with little resistance from either of them, they too sleep together.
At the same time, Thomas’s best friend, Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) announces she’s dropped her muso boyfriend, obviously in the hope of taking her platonic relationship with Thomas to the next stage.
Everyone has decisions to make: unfortunately it’s pretty much the same decision for all of them – who to choose?
The only other substantial revelation/surprise comes toward the end but most will see it coming from a long way away.
One of the main reasons this film does not reach the heights it could have is that it’s hard to feel much for pretentious, cliched, wealthy publishing types.
Their actions are those of New York aristocrats bored with life but lacking the wherewithal to expand their interests outside their circle of influence. They could do anything: travel the world, climb Everest, skydive – anything they want; but they choose to wallow in their own dissatisfaction.
So while there is enough interest to follow their story, one does so with little sympathy for any of them. ‘Wake up guys and smell the flowers’, that’s if flowers grow in New York.
Interestingly, with the actors he had to work with, and the context of the story, Marc Webb fails to make the most of the sexual chemistry that should have oozed off the screen.
On balance, a film that, with more subtlety and nuances, could have been a ‘must see’ but that still has enough to provide for a pleasant ninety minutes to fill – so long as you’re not expecting the class, style and substance of The Graduate.