‘Only Living Boy in New York’: Privileged men, one-dimensional women and way too many visions of Johanna


Allan Loeb has written a dozen movies since breaking through a decade ago with the formulaic recovery drama “Things We Lost in the Fire.”

Loeb’s latest, an unconvincing coming-of-age tale, “The Only Living Boy in New York,” was one of the first screenplays he wrote, many years ago. And given Hollywood’s penchant for buying his projects — Loeb’s resume includes last year’s mawkish Will Smith vehicle “Collateral Beauty” and the sour Adam Sandler comedy “Just Go With It” — it won’t be his last.

The movies themselves — and this includes “Only Living Boy” — often feature a third act twist and are often either indifferent to women or treat them in a manner that can come across as puerile.


“Only Living Boy,” set in present-day New York, tells the story of an insufferable, privileged young man (Callum Turner) who discovers his distant, demanding father (Pierce Brosnan) is cheating on his emotionally fragile mother (Cynthia Nixon) with a beautiful, mysterious (i.e., she’s a cipher) woman named Johanna (Kate Beckinsale).

Yes, that woman’s name means a character, a life-lesson-dispensing, alcoholic writer played by the great Jeff Bridges, will keep repeating “visions of Johanna” over and over again until director Marc Webb (“The Amazing Spider-Man”) relents and unleashes the Bob Dylan song of the same name. (Worst use of Dylan since that Victoria’s Secret ad.)

“Only Living Boy” fails to convince as a character study, romance or love letter to the CBGB-era New York City. It drops a plot bombshell close to the end of its 88-minute running time, but the filmmakers haven’t laid the track to make it plausible.

“SoulCycle is the only soul this city has left,” Thomas whines early on, putting down 21st century Manhattan. But even Richard Nixon has got soul, a wise man once sang. Even “The Only Living Boy in New York,” too, though as was the case with Tricky Dick, you have to look hard to find it.


Rating: R for language and some drug material

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: In select theaters

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Twitter: @glennwhipp