Film Review: ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’ Has Beauty on the Outside But Comes Up Empty Elsewhere

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Marc Webb‘s latest film “The Only Living Boy in New York” has plenty of interesting ideas, entrenching itself in a literary-style cinematic structure.  Where the film loses most of its charm is in its unrelatable characters, who all exhibit behavior that hardly rings true in the real world.  With that said, there’s some bright spots among the film including strong turns from Kate Beckinsale and Cynthia Nixon.

The Only Living Boy in New York” tells the story of Thomas Webb (played by Callum Turner), a recent college graduate who is trying to find his way in New York.  In love with his good friend Mimi (played by Kiersey Clemons), and receiving pressure from his artistic mother (played by Cynthia Nixon) and publisher father (played by Pierce Brosnan), his whole world comes crashing down when he discovers his father is having an affair with the beautiful Johanna (played by Kate Beckinsale).  With the guidance of his neighbor (played by Jeff Bridges), he attempts to make sense of these relationships when he himself begins sleeping with his father’s mistress.

Webb struggles to find the film’s tone as its comedic beats seem to hit most of the time but not without an awkward blend of dramatic flare.  With a script written by Allan Loeb, the film shockingly comes to a head with a very strange twist that seems way too far-fetched, even by movie standards.

Webb does a superb job in assembling his technical team as the highlight is Rob Simonsen‘s impeccable score, weirdly hawking back to something from Philip Glass’ “The Hours.”  The slick polish from DP Stuart Dryburgh also comes as an added feature.

Callum Turner‘s lead performance is impressive on the surface but in no believable world would the viewer believe that the beautiful Kate Beckinsale would find herself wanting to sleep with him for no other reason than…actually, we don’t really know why they begin sleeping together.  They may have mentioned that it’s something for her to do but in their initial conversations, she randomly mentions that Thomas wants to sleep with her.

Beckinsale holds her beauty as her central weapon in her acting arsenal but she offers a bit more even when the script is not asking her to.  Co-star Cynthia Nixon is also offering example after example for Hollywood to keep delivering her more challenging roles.  She’s a role or two away from that overdue an pivotal Oscar needed for E.G.O.T. life.

While “The Only Living Boy in New York” missteps greatly, there’s some enjoyment to endure. There’s a charming quality that spills over in many scenes that it’s hard to not be engaged.  You can try it all at your own peril.

“The Only Living Boy in New York” is distributed by Roadside Attractions and Amazon Studios and opens in theaters on Aug. 11.

GRADE: (★★½)