This smart, sexy and sophisticated entertainment for grownups sick of typical summer Hollywood fare verges on melodrama in parts but delivers some sensational fun thanks to a uniformly superb cast. Although The Only Living Boy in New York (a title taken from the Simon and Garfunkel song) has stars including Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kate Beckinsale and Cynthia Nixon, among others, it is anchored by the lesser-known British actor Callum Turner (Assassin’s Creed).
He plays Thomas, a young man from an upscale background who discovers his publisher father Ethan (Brosnan) is cheating on his mother Judith (Nixon) with an attractive woman named Johanna (Beckinsale). Taking things perilously close to soap opera territory, Thomas’ initial stalking of his prey turns into his own clandestine affair with his father’s seductive but emotionally frustrated mistress, who is tired of empty promises that the man she has been secretly sleeping with for a year has not left his wife. Lurking in the background of all of this, detached from the action but observant nonetheless, is Thomas’ novelist neighbor W.F. Gerard (Bridges), who offers advice and counsel to him as events careen out of control. There’s also Thomas’ unsteady relationship with Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), who essentially is shunted aside as Thomas gets more confused and more involved with Dad’s side dish.
Screenwriter Allan Loeb throws in a whopper of a third-act twist that might have risked credibility in lesser hands. But it is handled with just the right touch of irony and humanity by director Marc Webb, who has been rescued from the Spider-Man universe to return to the kind of frothy, independent-minded grownup movies he previously made like the wonderful 500 Days Of Summer. This could be called a coming-of-age tale not just for Thomas but for the older characters as well, who all eventually have their own come-to-Jesus moment supplied by a script that slowly ratchets up the action, and the stakes.
The movie, produced by Albert Berger and Rox Yerxa (Little Miss Sunshine), had been in development for more than a decade and actually was Loeb’s first in a career that also includes the recent Collateral Beauty and The Space Between Us, as well as Things We Lost in The Fire, 21 and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps among other mainstream entertainments. He’s definitely got a commercial eye that might turn off some critics, but it works for me, at least in this case — as I say in my video review (click the link above to watch). Part of the reason I succumbed to it all is Beckinsale, who as Johanna brings a human complexity to a character who might have been seen only to be conniving and ruthlessly unfeeling. She’s just terrific here.
Brosnan, as always, is excellent, as is grizzled vet Bridges and the warm Nixon. Turner may be from across the pond, but you wouldn’t know it, and he manages to carry the film on his shoulders without losing the audience along the way, not an easy trick. I can think of other young actors who might have been more appealing, but Turner meets the challenge head-on. I had a good time with it all.
Roadside Attractions releases for Amazon in select theaters today before expanding as the summer drifts into the fall. This is the perfect transition.
Do you plan to see The Only Living Boy in New York? Let us know what you think.