A woman bedding both a father and a son has long been a staple of romantic melodramas, and even romantic comedies.
So is there any edge left to it, anything new Hollywood can bring to the table on this subject?
“The Only Living Boy in New York” takes its title from a Simon & Garfunkel song, its director from “(500) Days of Summer” and its screenwriter from “Just Go With It.”
Sure, Marc Webb’s two takes on “Spider-Man” — the Andrew Garfield ones — were middling. But the real problem is Allan Loeb’s at-least-its-not-another-Adam-Sandler-comedy script.
Throw a cast that includes Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale in full temptress mode, Cynthia Nixon doing “damaged” and Pierce Brosnan cast for his dash at a screenplay with the odd pithy truth about life and love and at its best moments, it has the feel of Woody Allen-lite.
The rest of the time? It barely fits the description of the leading character’s writing talents, a description which suits the leading man himself (Callum Turner of “Queen & Country”).
Jeff Bridges narrates the thing, and plays a world-wise/world-weary alcoholic neighbor to our young hero, a man with artistic ambitions, artistic connections and no direction.
The chatty, inquisitive neighbor meets Thomas Webb at low ebb.
“I’m having a bad day.”
“What’s her name?”
That would be the winsome artist Mimi (“It” girl Kiersey Clemons of “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” and TV’s “Transparent”). She’s sentenced gawky, rich, didn’t-finish-college Thomas to “the friend zone.” And the older man would love to help.
But Thomas has many issues. He’s “boring,” by how own admission. And there’s his fragile, broken mother (Cynthia Nixon).
“Dinner parties are how Mom medicates,” which means she, her husband (Pierce Brosnan) and son are surrounded by arty wits (Wallace Shawn, Debbie Mazar, Tate Donovan) who, like our narrator, lament the “safe” New York of today, the “new New York,” where CBGBs and the porn shops and other legendary corners of seediness have been scrubbed and upscaled. Thomas and his not-a-girlfriend appear to have missed “the good ol’days.”
Dad’s in publishing, and he’s decided that the way to recapture the past is with an affair. Thomas stalks the mistress (Beckinsale) and things turn a lot less “boring” as they do.
Characters spout daily affirmationisms like “The farthest distance in the world is between how it is, and how it was going to be.” “Let life take over.”
It’s all rather like the literary-minded lyrics Paul Simon labored over in his youth. That music, with a touch of Dylan, fills the soundtrack under the crusty observations that “It’s safe here, now. Urban decay migrated to dinner parties.”
It can be maddening, like the portentous pap Loeb churned out for ” The Space Between Us.” And Turner, a sort of gawky, younger version of the angularly asexual Eddie Redmayne, seems more a pity date/copulate than the object of awkward desire he’s presented as here.
Beckinsale never makes us believe she’d be remotely tempted by this annoying boy who catches her in mid-affair with his dad.
But all that said, Bridges gives a magnificently rumpled reading to his character, Nixon has the second-best lines and does brittle ever-so-well.
And Webb captures the essence of why New York movies set in the fall seem so right. Slightly overcast, melancholy, wistful, it’s a cinema season for affairs. And that makes “The Only Living Boy in New York” feel right, even when it isn’t.
It’s not Woody Allen. But then Woody Allen hasn’t been Woody Allen in 20 years.
“Serviceable,” the stinging critique of a young man’s potential by his publisher/father, fits.
MPAA Rating: R, profanity, sexual situations, drinking and pot use
Cast: Callum Turner, Kate Beckinsale, Jef Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kiely, Cynthia Nixon
Credits:Directed by Marc Webb, script by Allen Loeb. An Amazon Studios release.
Running time: 1:28