“The Only Living Boy in New York” – a film review by Gary Chew
Jeff Bridges isn’t “The Dude” in a new film called The Only Living Boy In New York, but there’s better than an even chance that the character he plays in it (W.F. Gerald) could last as long as “The Dude” does in the mind of anyone who sees this summer surprise just out by Marc Webb. An earlier Webb film called 500 Days Of Summer, I sort of went gaga over. Webb also did the Amazing Spidee Guys flicks back in ’12 and ’14.
Living Boy is a bit like 500 Days, except that it doesn’t have Zooey Deschanel. Happily, Webb has made sure to have not just one Zooey-like female in his new one, but two. And they would be Kate Beckinsale (as Johanna) and newcomer Kiersey Clemons (as Mimi). Yes, Ms. Clemons looks just like a pert, lovely Mimi should. Of course, Beckinsale looks just like … uh, well you know … just what someone like Kate Beckinsale should look like, uh … approaching ravishing, some would say.
Kiersey plays the about-the-same-age girl friend of the guy who’s the “only living”dude in New York. And he is … uh, yes again … another newcomer. London born Callum Turner, as Thomas, looks like he could really open up his acting career in Webb’s film that was written by Alan Loeb. Our young man of The Apple has an upper class book publisher daddy done by Pierce Brosnan (Ethan) and a lovely, literature savvy mama played by Cynthia Nixon (Judith). You’ll never guess what Thomas wants to be. Would you believe a successful writer of novels?
Since Bridges’s character is named W.F. Gerald, it’s not difficult to finally realize what he is, too. W.F. shows up renting an icky apartment just upstairs from Thomas’s that’s located in the slightly wrong side of the city. The boy wants to keep some distance from his parent’s place which isn’t nearly as posh as what one might find over in Trump Tower; but still swanky, minus the gold-insulated walls.
Turns out that Thomas and Mimi are out on the town one evening and spot Ethan below them in a busy cafe. Daddy is with Johanna in a corner booth. No actor in the film says that Ethan and Johanna ought to get a room … but you get the picture. Thomas is on the verge of tumbling from the well-secreted balcony of this ritzy restaurant as he tom peeps on his father below embracing not his mama but this much younger lady.
Surely, Woody Allen will eat his heart out if the The Woodman sees this movie. Seems the issue is that The Only Living Boy in New York, is much smoother and slicker than some recent Allen films.
On down the script several pages, Living Boy might bring back a memory for you about the great Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, as Thomas covertly and more than confronts Johanna about indiscretions she having with his daddy. But I’ll just leave that as is, again … if you know what I mean. After all, Turner does have, you might notice, a few facial features akin to Paul Newman’s … especially if you’re a girl.
But what about Jeff Bridges and his role as W.F. Gerald? (I just love that name, don’t you?) He’s the dude … whoops, I guess I shouldn’t call him that. Let’s just say he turns out to be Thomas’s very wise mentor about stuff, especially women and book writing. (You’re gonna love this turn by Jeff.) Of course, old W.F. is as eccentric as “The Dude” in that other film, but he smokes less weed and doesn’t drink alcoholic beverages stirred in dairy products. W.F. knows every frigging thing there ought to be known, and lets his “pupil” know it … as well as you … if you’re still on the road to find out.
If you were acutely aware of popular music just under 50 years ago, you might recall a Simon and Garfunkel song called “The Only Living Boy In New York.” The title does have a familiar ring to it. The lyrics of that song don’t connect much with what happens in the picture, save just hearing it on the soundtrack some, along with other really other fine, appropriate, recognizable music. I especially did a music freak out when old W.F. Gerald snaps on his sorry looking tape cassette machine, and out of it floats my jazz pianist Bill Evans playing “Peace Piece.” The choices of fine recordings are nigh on to perfect, throughout … even getting to some Bob Dylan not long before the picture wraps.
So far, as we trip through an 8th month of 2017, Only Boy is the best movie I’ve laid eyes on. Really. The writing is perfect, the twist is perfect, and moreover: the feeling you have withdrawing from the movie theater approaches perfection. There’s no inundation by films today that offer as much for ticket buyers. According to the folks who keep tabs on whether or not movie studios are making any money, this has been a real stinker of a summer.
Another work of art you may be reminded of … not unlike The Graduate … is J.D. Salinger‘s iconic novel Catcher In The Rye. Thomas is no Holden Caulfield, even though you might notice similarities between them. Webb and the script adhere to the literary, albeit not to an extent it would be a downer for those who tend to eschew reading the printed page. The story is too well written and the characters too finely drawn for that. You could say The Only Living Boy In New York is “The Dude” evolving, somewhat, to become a yuppified intellectual, but all the while maintaining that bohemian flair.