Marc Webb’s “The Only Living Boy in New York” is not nearly as cute as it thinks it is.
Thomas (Callum Turner) is a disaffected youth living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to spite his Upper West Side parents (Pierce Brosnan and Cynthia Nixon). He thinks he’s entitled to any woman he wants, so when Kiersey Clemons’ Mimi rejects him, he embarks on a quest to make her want him back. This involves getting not-so-sage advice from Jeff Bridges’ marble-mouthed W.F. and, eventually, doing the do with his father’s mistress, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale).
You’ve seen this sort of movie before. New York is a character. People whine about the death of Manhattan, saying things like, “SoulCycle is the only soul this city has left.” These movies are ubiquitous. They’re fun to laugh at and often harmless.
But “The Only Living Boy in New York” is not harmless.
“You shouldn’t let her do that to you,” one character tells Thomas about Mimi, positioning Thomas as the victim and Mimi, because she changes in front of him and slept with him once, as the cruel seductress. Later, Thomas tells W.F., “I should be on a beach with Mimi … naked.” In Thomas’ eyes, Mimi should be his. Though she says she doesn’t, Mimi clearly wants him, he believes. He’s just got to keep pushing, keep asking, keep kissing her without her consent, until she figures it out.
Thomas is rape culture personified. And yet we’re supposed to be on his side because he’s “sweet.”
There are some fleeting moments of inspiration, but “The Only Living Boy in New York” is rotten to its Big Apple core.