All I am looking for from film is that it present the viewer a slice of the human experience and be somewhat original. It is often too much to ask for. Sigh… Sometimes, though, screenwriters and directors strive to deliver just that. It doesn’t always result in a great film, but sometimes good enough is satisfactory. That brings us to Marc Webb’s (The Amazing Spider-Man, (500) Days of Summer) The Only Living Boy in New York. It is not a fantastic film just one that you can pour a glass of wine, pop some popcorn and curl up on the couch to watch and not regret your decision.
The screenplay, written by Allan Loeb (Just Go With It, Collateral Beauty), had been bouncing around the film world for years. Different drafts were written. Actors and actresses were attached to the project and then left it. You can see how this would be a film that some saw as prickly. It is not one that will bring the masses to the cinema. It is about a certain slice of New York’s upper crust that might not be seen as palatable to film goers. Who really cares about the “problems” of those who live on the Upper West Side. Talk about first world problems.
It is a precarious time for many once a young person has graduated from university. What to do with one’s life? Find a job that you want to do for the rest of your professional life? Laze about? Travel? Go about finding a life partner? The answer is not always evident. That is exactly the conundrum which Thomas Webb (Callum Turner – Assassin’s Creed, Green Room) finds himself in. His family has not exactly helped him out with his decision.
His father Ethan (Pierce Brosnan – Mamma Mia!, Die Another Day) is a successful publisher, but has discourage Thomas from becoming a writer. His mother Judith (Cynthia Nixon – from television’s Sex in the City) is, though devoted to her son, emotionally unstable and altogether fragile. To gain some perspective, Thomas has taken a small apartment in the Lower East Side, much to his father’s disgust. There he finds an ally and someone he can truly talk to in his mysterious neighbour (Jeff Bridges – Iron Man, The Big Lebowski). Thomas and his always drunk neighbour talk about life at length over glasses of whiskey. A bond is formed.
As if his indecision about his future isn’t enough, Thomas’ life is rocked when he discovers that his father is having an affair. After following her for a while, Thomas finally gathers the courage to speak to Johanna (Kate Beckinsale – The Aviator, Pearl Harbor). He wants to end his father’s affair, but ends up entangled in the beautiful woman’s web.
This is a world which most of us do not have access to. Artistic yet wealthy. It is fantasy yet not. Will frustrate many that Thomas’ biggest problems are figuring out what he wants to do with his life (though he doesn’t really have to worry about money as he can just work for his father), ending his father’s affair and trying to convince the girl (Kiersey Clemons – Bad Neighbours 2, Dope) he loves to love him back. Does not sound like enough for a film does it? And yet it is. In the same way that many early Woody Allen films were intriguing so is this one. Now, I am not saying it is on the level of an Annie Hall, but it does have the same feel. Filled with anxiety and guilt. It will cause you to think about each character’s motivation for what they do. Plus it is set in New York.
The main reason to see the film is the acting by Jeff Bridges. He is just so watchable in whatever he does. Elevates all material he is given. Quirky is where he exists. The odder the character, the more at home he seems. Makes “different” characters appealing. There are some landmines here with all the cliches though Bridges navigates them expertly.
Slow but well thought out. With its indie vibe it is not a film for everyone. A coming of age film with enough of a twist to make it interesting.