I have often said that we spend our twenties trying to figure it all out, and then when we hit our thirties we realize that all we have to do is just live our lives. However, getting through that third decade of living to get there tends to be simply a rollercoaster of emotion. Between trying to break the mold of being seen as a child and trying to have the respect of a living, working, independent adult that may not be completely there yet is such fertile ground for storytelling that Hollywood sits in that pocket of life quite a bit. Marc Webb, famous music video director and the man who brought us “(500) Days of Summer” and both “The Amazing Spider-Man” films (both of which I enjoyed, so judge me if you will) takes his crack at a slice of this life with his latest film, “The Only Living Boy in New York”.
With a title taken from a Simon & Garfunkel song, Callum Turner is the central character here playing Thomas, a twenty-two-year-old living on his own on the Lower East Side as he is working toward being a writer. He also is dealing with a woman that he is mad for in Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), who may or may not feel the same way, a publisher father (Pierce Brosnan) who just wants him to have direction, and a mother (Cynthia Nixon) who is teetering on the edge of a breakdown. When he stumbles on the fact that his father is having an affair with one his co-workers, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale), it throws everything he knows into a tailspin with the only real anchor in his life being a mysterious old man who moves in across the hall from him (Jeff Bridges).
Looking at screenwriter Allan Loeb’s body of work, this film could be kind of everything he has worked on put in the proverbial blender, and what comes out of it is nothing short of satisfying. This is a very rich story told on multiple levels while keeping the main story moving in a way that all of the parts make the whole even better. Callum truly embraces the millennial part of him here, with that sense of entitlement as well as young adult angst that us old codgers would shake our fists at, but at the same time realizing that some of these traits may be a bit more universal than we choose to admit thus making the audience look at this time in their lives through a bit of different lenses. Beckinsale is as irresistible as ever in the role of the “other woman” who wants everyone to believe that she is simply footloose and fancy free but in her quiet moments is so much more, and there is also a great performance by Clemons, whose Mimi is a character that too many of us can identify having an association with in our lifetimes. Brosnan and Nixon, while having limited screen time, also do a serviceable job here to keep Thomas’ path moving.
And then, there’s Jeff Bridges. Seriously, The Dude is THE DUDE here with all of his wisdom and just crushes it. I feel like everyone should have someone in their lives like his character of W.F. Gerald, and if that person just happens to be Jeff Bridges, that is just all the more awesome. This man is a master at owning his scenes while at the same time knowing that give-and-take that makes his costars shine in a way that is natural and absolutely a wonder to watch.
Visually, I was very impressed with the style employed by Webb, which reminded me a lot of a ‘60s French film with a modern American sensibility. There is a tinge of Hitchcock-ian suspense involved as Thomas seeks to know more about the woman that has distracted his father’s affections that really upped the cool vibe for me as I was watching the film. The tone here is right on point for the story, and the attention to detail shown by the crew translates beautifully.
“The Only Living Boy in New York” is a film that although has an indie vibe is fully and totally aimed for a mass audience. There is something here for all parts of the movie going spectrum from the casual film goer to the more seasoned and detailed film fan. “Well told, well-acted, and beautifully shot” should be enough to get you there, so go!