Bethlehem Press

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Review: ‘Boy’

Friday, September 8, 2017 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

Having seen the film, “The Only Living Boy In New York City,” I can’t wait to read the book.

Wait: There’s no book?

There is a book shown in the film, titled “The Only Living Boy In New York City,” written by W.F. Gerald (Jeff Bridges in full-stubble) in his pen name.

Oh, I guess that’s a prop book, or books, since there is a pile of them on a table at a book store scene.

The film rips off the title of the song of the same title, “The Only Living Boy In New York City,” written and sung by Paul Simon (from Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” 1970 album) and heard on the film’s soundtrack.

Somewhere in the film, “The Only Living Boy In New York City,” there’s a good film. However, it wasn’t the film that I saw, a film that is precious, effete and self-involved. It’s like a neurotic Woody Allen film without the punchlines.

The film captures little of the brilliantly enigmatic song, which is in the giddy lyrics tradition of Simon’s “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” from Simon & Garfunkel’s “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” 1966 album, and has the wistful sense in its production of “America” (from Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bookends” 1968 album).

It will take repeated remedial listens to Simon’s “The Only Living Boy In New York City” to wash my memory clean of the film of the same title so as to not ruin my enjoyment of the song.

I’ve already begun my therapy. I have Simon’s “The Only Living Boy In New York City” on repeat as I write this movie review. You might want to listen to Simon’s song as you read the review.

The hackneyed screenplay tramples on another classic, Bob Dylan’s “Visions Of Johanna” (“Blonde On Blonde” album, 1966), the title of which is repeated at least twice by Mr. Mumble Mouth (that would be Jeff Bridges) in reference to Joanna (Kate Beckinsale).

Spoiler alert: the young, unattached single “Boy” of the title, Thomas Webb (Callum Turner, doing his best young Richard Gere), has an affair with Joanna. But first he stalks her.

It’s Thomas’s way of trying to get Joanna to end her affair (the screenplay uses the quaint term “mistress”) with Thomas’s father, Ethan Webb (Pierce Brosnan, looking like a Brit out of water). He’s an executive at a publishing house (given how that trade is going, it’s no wonder he’s got too much time on his hands).

Ethan is married to Judith Webb (Cynthia Nixon), who is apparently in a fragile mental state (So we’re told by Thomas who says this repeatedly to Joanna before they seduce each other.).

Meanwhile, Thomas’s friend, Mimi Pastori (Kiersey Clemons), looks on in disbelief. So did I.

Marc Webb (director, “Gifted,” 2017; “The Amazing Spider-Man,” 2014, 2012; “500 Days Of Summer,” 2009) directs the screenplay by Allan Loeb (screenwriter, “The Space Between Us,” 2017; “Collateral Beauty,” 2016).

Unfortunately, the director has cut his actors adrift. This is the kind of film that makes even good actors look bad.

You know a film’s in deep trouble when the emotional high-points soar off the screen on the wings of a song. The film has some nice scene-setter visuals of New York City.

The otherwise usually fine cast is wasted on material that is half-baked and little more than a sketch left undeveloped. It’s “The Graduate” (1967) meets “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (1986).

If the screenplay’s moral bankruptcy and faux intellectualism isn’t enough (“Life is as fun as it is tragic” and “Anything to keep away the dread,” Bridges as W.F. Gerald pontificates), the film’s Altmanesque (overlapping) dialogue is frequently difficult to understand, owing to it not being enunciated sufficiently, recorded properly or improved in post-production re-recording. Then again, the film’s soap-opera sentiments are probably best left unheard.

Thomas uses the term “serviceable” to describe his sorry state, a term his father, Ethan, taught him. This film isn’t even serviceable.

Meanwhile, where can I got a copy of the book, “The Only Living Boy In New York City”? Apparently, nowhere, the book publishing business such as it is. That’s surprising since Amazon Studios is a producer of the film.

“The Only Living Boy In New York City,”MPAA rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.) for language and some drug material; Genre: Drama; Run Time: 1 hr., 28 min.; Distributed by Roadside Attractions.

Credit Readers Anonymous:“The Only Living Boy In New York City” has been in development since 2012.

Box Office:Weekend box office results were unavailable because of the early Labor Day holiday deadline for the Focus section.

Unreel,Sept. 8:“It,”R: Andy Muschietti directs Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard, and Sophia Lillis in the Horror film. A clown hunts children. The children band together to oppose the monster.

“Home Again,”PG-13: Hallie Meyers-Shyer directs Reese Witherspoon, Nat Wolff, Lake Bell, and Michael Sheen in the Comedy Drama. A single mother in Los Angeles has three young men move in with her.

One Popcorn Box out of Five Popcorn Boxes