Get ready to roll your eyes and endure another insufferable upper class New York family – and this time they aren’t even generous enough to be interesting.
The youngest of a wealthy New York family, Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) has just graduated college and is trying to find his place in the world. His best friend Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) does not reciprocate the romantic feelings he has for her, and his father (Pierce Brosnan), a renowned publisher, does not feel his son’s writing is worthy of his business. Thomas finds solace in the words of wisdom spouted from the alcoholic author W.F. (Jeff Bridges) who has just moved in next door, though even he can’t comfort Thomas when he learns that his father is having an affair with an attractive mistress (Kate Beckinsale).
Well, try though he may have, it looks like director Marc Webb is a confirmed one-hit wonder. After the funny, witty and original (500) Days of Summer he’s flailed around and failed to recapture his magic in both the tentpole blockbuster arena (The Amazing Spider-Man) and the indie comedy-drama world (Gifted). The final nail in the coffin is The Only Living Boy in New York, a “classy” Bourgeois drama that reeks of an attempt to emulate Whit Stillman, Woody Allen and Peter Bogdanovich, but, sadly, isn’t half as clever as it thinks it is.
In smugly assuming he’s outsmarted his audience (he hasn’t), he’s on a completely different wavelength, rendering the majority of his characters unlikable. For the most part, it feels like we’re attending a fancy dinner we weren’t invited to, only to be forced to stand in the corner and look on, while desperately wanting to leave.
Amidst all the pseudo-intellectual ramblings, a first-rate cast falls flat on its ass. Unfortunately, most of this is down to the “boy” at its centre – the relatively unknown Callum Turner. He doesn’t quite fit the role, and lacks chemistry with most of the more experienced actors he’s working with; a fatal flaw, given that he’s the only one to interact with the rest of the film’s characters. Given that he does little to earn our sympathies over his arc (or lack of), it’s hard to justify investing time in his story.
In fact, every player in this tedious chess game suffers a similar lapse in likability that becomes increasingly infuriating – most gratingly, the hazy motivations of the mistress and Mimi’s jealousy when Thomas moves on, despite condemning him to the friend-zone beforehand. To its credit, Only Living Boy tries to make things deeper with a twist at its climax, but it’s one that stretches and feels a bit ridiculous – not to mention that it’s hardly an original one. The stars we know at least do what they’re reliable for; Bridges, Beckinsale and Brosnan are respectively gruff, seductive and charming, but there’s plenty of better places we can see them.
Those wanting to feel a bit classier seated in a cinema might get a kick out of this, but it seems unlikely anyone else – even the snobby hip crowd in its aim – will enjoy this meandering misfire.
The Only Living Boy in New York is available in Australian cinemas from September 12
Image courtesy of Roadshow Films