A wide-open goal post for accusations of triteness and affectation, Marc Webb’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” dares us to score the second we hear Jeff Bridges’s cynical, omniscient voice-over. As W. F., an alcoholic author with a mysterious connection to the movie’s nebbishy hero, Thomas (Callum Turner), Mr. Bridges slips delightedly into the kind of arrogant-artist role he perfected in “The Door in the Floor” (2004). Here, his character is more grimy and less lustful, but no less certain of his own rectitude.
Washing up in Thomas’s Lower East Side apartment building, W. F. quickly becomes the young man’s literary life coach. Heaven knows he needs one: An aspiring writer who equates rebellion with a downscale ZIP code and a whining contempt for the financial success of his father, Ethan (Pierce Brosnan), Thomas moons over a gorgeous young woman (Kiersey Clemons) and frets over his emotionally fragile mother (a warm Cynthia Nixon). He probably also needs a therapist, preferably a Freudian, to unravel why he’s obsessively stalking his father’s mistress, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale).
Burdened by thuddingly obvious musical choices (including Simon & Garfunkel’s gorgeous title song and, for crying out loud, Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna”), Allan Loeb’s script is glib and grating. The way is cleared for W. F., with his aura of slovenly glamour and precise knowledge of the cooking temperature of heroin, to steal the show. But Mr. Turner holds his own, gamely countering his strong resemblance to the young Richard Gere with a performance of perplexed immaturity.
Everyone, in fact, works hard to transcend the artifice, and they deserve better. So, for that matter, do Simon & Garfunkel.
Continue reading the main story