Marc Webb, who directed one of my all-time favorite rom-coms, (500) Days of Summer, gets it all wrong this time with The Only Living Boy in New York. How do major misfires like this happen? Blame the screenwriter. Summer showed the light touch of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber; Boy is credited to writer Allan Loeb, whose growing rap sheet includes the excruciating Collateral Beauty and The Space Between Us. Even the best actors – and this coming-of-age movie boasts a handful of them – can’t fight this much tin-eared dialogue.
The set-up: Thomas, played by rising Brit star Callum Turner, is a petulant young novelist who despises the good life he’s living in Manhattan. So, naturally, he moves to a dump on the Lower East Side. Take that, privilege! Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), the age-appropriate object of Thomas’s lust, won’t let the kid near her bed. Smart girl. His moneybags dad, Ethan (Pierce Brosnan), is a successful publisher who is making life miserable for his depressed wife, Judith (Cynthia Nixon) – mostly by having an affair with gorgeous Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). How to stick it to daddy for cheating on mom? By having an affair with Johanna himself. Why the older woman, as embodied with intelligence and finely-burnished glam by the British actress, is willing to play Mrs. Robinson to Turner’s Benjamin is purely the risible result of Loeb’s total misreading of The Graduate.
Did I mention that the great Jeff Bridges shows up as Thomas’s mystery mentor, referred to as WF? Put a capital “T” between those initials and you get my reaction to what transpires on screen. As far as I know, Simon & Garfunkel haven’t protested the appropriation of their song for a film that misses every note of sorrowful beauty in their music. Just give it time.