Almost fifty years ago Simon & Garfunkel provided the memorable soundtrack to the equally memorable movie “The Graduate.” This year a wistful S&G song, “The Only Living Boy in New York,” inspired a wry movie of the same name by director Marc Webb.
Set in New York City, the movie centers around Thomas Webb (Callum Turner), a recent college grad in love with his best friend good friend, Mimi (Kiersey Clemons). When she rejects his romantic entreaties he’s crushed. Back at home in his parents Ethan and Judith’s (Pierce Brosnan and Cynthia Nixon) swanky Upper West Side apartment building he meets the boozy new neighbour, W.F. Gerald (Jeff Bridges), an author and sage who offers life advice.
When Thomas learns about Ethan’s affair with Johanna (Kate Beckinsale) he first becomes obsessed with learning more about her and then, perhaps to make Mimi jealous and possibly in an ode to “The Graduate,” begins a romantic affair with the older woman. Navigating his complicated personal life brings his combative relationship with the grizzled Ethan—who once told his son, a wannabe writer, that his work was only “serviceable”—in focus while opening his eyes to the world around him.
“The Only Living Boy in New York” doesn’t have the buoyancy of “(500) Days of Summer,” Webb’s other study of the way relationships work and, sometimes, how they don’t work. It’s more quasi-Phillip Roth than RomCom but it is propped up with some terrific performances.
English born actor Callum is cut from the Benjamin Braddock school of lovesick, confused young man, but it’s the seasoned pros who are worth the price of admission. Nixon is brittle yet steely as a long time New Yorker who was friends with Andy Warhol and mourns the loss of Greenwich Village’s famed Bottom Line club. Beckinsale is more than a plot device, bringing real humanity to a woman caught between the two men.
Bridges, now firmly entrenched in the old coot phase of his career, brings craggy charm to the role of mentor but it is Brosnan who shines. He’s at his best as a man who is simultaneously a father and romantic rival to his son.
“The Only Living Boy in New York” frequently feels like it is about to spin off its axis but Webb fights past the clunky dialogue and overly complicated story to present an engaging coming-of-age story.