Review: 'The Only Living Boy In New York' Starring Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale, & Jeff Bridges

Marc Webb's The Only Living Boy in New York should be a movie I hate. It will be a movie a lot of people definitely will hate for all of the reasons I should. From the annoying title lifted from Paul Simon's song, to its familiar The Graduate-esque storyline, to its focus on uber-pretentious New York elitists and their myriad of "problems", this is a film just begging to be hammered; its creators dragged off to a class on diversity.

And yet, I found something genuine in a movie where all of these super-privileged people act, *shocker*, in completely selfish fashion and learn next to nothing. It's kind of funny, actually, even if screenwriter Allan Loeb fell into it by accident. The main character, Thomas Webb (Callum Turner), is a young wannabe savant who thinks he's a brilliant old soul because he can quip about New York's lack of personality. It's like Woody Allen nested himself right in this kid's brain and dropped his drawers.  In reality, Thomas is just another drifting, lower Manhattan slacker with rich parents. His dismissive father (Pierce Brosnan) is a wealthy publisher, while his mother (Cynthia Nixon) is your stereotypical pill-popping depressed housewife, filling her life with dinner parties.

The opening scene boils Thomas and his privilege down perfectly, as he tries to convince his best friend and crush Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) that their one beautiful night together was the best of her life, and that she really loves him. He takes her rejection as a personal offense, because, y'know how it goes guys, being friends just isn't good enough. There's no conquest in that.  Of course, the real problem, that he hasn't sniffed out, is that he's a pretty dull dude with little to offer and certainly no life experience. That all begins to change (OF COURSE!!!) soon after, when he discovers his father has been having an affair with the gorgeous and exotic Johanna (Kate Beckinsale, stuffy and British in the most alluring ways possible), who Thomas absolutely MUST have. That's right, he needs to sleep with Daddy's mistress. The therapy bills for this family must be a real hoot.

I'll admit to having some fun with the film's most "mysterious" (although not really) character, Mr. W.F. Gerald, played by the great, mush-mouthed Jeff Bridges. The mushier his verbiage the better, I've found. He's one of those characters you often find in these mentorship coming-of-age dramas. He emerges literally out of nowhere and takes a sudden, eager interest in Thomas' life. So immediately we know he has an agenda, it's just a matter of how creepy it is. Thomas spills every detail about his boring life, which as Gerald continually points out isn't so boring, since, y'know, Thomas ends up sleeping with his father's sidechick.  Gerald is a veritable fountain of platitudes and pointless literary information, doled out between hearty slugs of whatever is in his bottle at the time. He's the cheeriest character in the movie, and also the phoniest. So phony that I toyed with the idea that he was just a figment of Thomas' overactive imagination. The reality is just as incredulous; a saccharine twist of preposterousness that should be expected from the writer who gave us Collateral Beauty and The Space Between Us. I believe in happy endings, too, but damn son.

Originally meant to star Miles Teller, his role ultimately fell to Callum Turner, best known for playing enjoyably empty characters in Green Room and Tramps. It makes him a strong choice for the role of Thomas, who can best be described as "enjoyably empty". His naiveté is repeatedly thrown in his face, most deliciously by Kate Beckinsale who seems to be enjoying herself as Johanna. She, along with Kiersey Clemons and Cynthia Nixon, make the most out of female characters whose personalities aren't nearly as defined as their male counterparts. They just seem to be following along in the wake of whatever ill-fated decision the men make. Even Mimi, who is the most outwardly against the bourgeois establishment Thomas' parents are a part of, is a reactionary to his whims.

Individual moments are where The Only Living Boy in New York finds greatest purchase. Pretty much every scene between Bridges and Turner, even that cheesy final act swerve, pack an emotional punch. It's a film that takes itself a little too seriously in an effort to be intellectual, but you'll enjoy it more if you don't.

Rating: 3 out of 5