Mark Webb wades into his second touchy-feely film of the year. “Gifted” proved to be an above average family drama that tugged at the heartstrings with moral superlatives. “The Only Living Boy in New York” includes every morally corrupt relational situation you could find on a daytime soap opera. Television-actor-turned-movie-star Callum Turner is the center of this ensemble cast, connecting each of the more well-recognized faces together. He moves around a vintage-looking modern New York City worrying about something he calls life. Of course, his life isn’t filled with work, responsibility or difficulty, his main concern is girlfriend, mistress and wealthy family drama. Jeff Bridges and Kate Beckinsale are far better than the sum of the entire film, elevating an otherwise familiar drama.
Thomas Webb (Turner) is in love with a girl named Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) with whom he has a drug fueled magical night with. She has a rocker boyfriend who is far more interesting than the impressionable, innocent Thomas. The younger Webb comes into the information that his father, Ethan (Brosnan), is having an affair with the beautiful Johanna (Beckinsale). Curious and distraught his dad would cheat on his fragile mother (Cynthia Nixon), he follows the mysterious woman, and the two also begin an affair. Thomas, now acting completely out of character, is being encouraged by a man living in his apartment building. The two talk over drinks and drugs, as the man (Bridges) pushes the boy into a new state of awareness.
“The Only Living Boy in New York” rarely feels like a script exploring reality, as much as it feels like someone withdrew characters from a seedy novel and humanized them. Of course, Thomas, Johanna and even Mimi are more caricature than character. Bridges does Bridges, he’s sort of Brooklyn slum, formerly suave, extension of The Dude in this, but with much better hair. The Oscar winner also narrates much of the first half of the story, until his character becomes embedded with the others, no longer an outside voice. “The Only Living Boy in New York” is a citified resemblance of another Bridges tawdry drama, “The Door in the Floor,” where people were having sex with those they shouldn’t be. Still, every moment the gruff actor and that iconic voice is on screen, the movie is better for it.
Beckinsale (“Love & Friendship”) is more than just the babe in this role. She surprisingly disappears into a role about a beautiful woman, which is no easy feat being a beautiful woman. The older she gets, the more refined and better actress. The performances only momentarily distract the viewer from the nonsense this story is peddling. Everything that is messy and dysfunctional is too easily cured with a happy ending. These isn’t a single character’s happiness to root for, because they all cross some imaginary line and never seek any redemption. It’s not a love story, just a story, where love is difficult and messy.
Final thought — Bridges and Beckinsale elevate this sophisticated soap opera to a nearly salvageable level.