Sunday, February 09, 2020

The Only Living Boy in New York: A Sophisticated and Complex Film

Movie Review: The Only Living Boy in New York (2017)
Version: Amazon Prime

A fine cast, a sophisticated and complex plot, and a superb plot twist at the end make The Only Living Boy in New York a great evening view any time. Its artistic, indie-film feel added weight to its story-telling depth. It has elements of mystery, although it definitely isn't a mystery. It has elements of suspense, although it definitely isn't a suspense or thriller story. Instead, The Only Living Boy in New York fits somewhere in between in its own genre and is entertaining in its own right.

Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) is an unrequited author who can't find his bearings as a writer in New York City and instead makes a living tutoring Spanish students. His father Ethan (Pierce Brosnan) runs a publishing house and can't seem to run through enough road blocks to guide his son in the right direction, although there is a definite conflict of personality between them. In between is wife and mother Judith (Cynthia Nixon), who suffers from acute bipolar depression and can't be upset at the least interruption in life without going off the deep end. And then there is Ethan's colleague and side love interest Johanna (Kate Beckinsale), who is a rock of stability for Ethan and a focus of obsession for Thomas. In steps newcomer W.F. (Jeff Bridges), a prolific but unsteady author who adopts Thomas as a friend and life mentor and, frankly, observer. It seems no one in this story is who he or she seems as the story unfolds, and by the story's end I promise you all your assumptions will lie as shards of broken glass on the floor. But that's OK because the journey and picking up the pieces at the end will have been worth it.

I have found over the past decade that Pierce Brosnan's characters were over reaches -- not so in this film. He's well suited to portray Ethan Webb, conflicted father. Too, I've tired of Jeff Bridges' characters who are pretty much the same stereotypes of the western sheriff or down-and-out but wise western hand turned hero -- always the same guy, different outfit. Not so in this film. He's well suited to portray W.F. Gerald, author in search of the unique story and finding a surprise. Now, he's always playing the laid-back, drinking, stogie-smoking old guy you want to pull up a chair to share a beer with, and that's him here, too. But now he tosses the ten-gallon hat, western attire, and beard and even gets a hair cut. Actually, I enjoyed both actors' performances in The Only Living Boy in New York.

This film has the smart sophistication of a Woody Allen art film but without the comedic touches. It also has the suspense of a good spy film or thriller but without the flashy chase scenes and gadgets. It's a film for the mind and the soul. And for all that, it's a good film that teases the intellect. Our whole family enjoyed it. I think your family might enjoy it, too, as a breath of fresh cinematic air.

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