“The Graduate” is 50 years old and deservedly a classic movie. Periodically somebody comes along and decides they really, really want to make a “Graduate” for today.
This almost never works.
Latest case in point: “The Only Living Boy in New York,” a coming-of-age tale with literary ambitions and an all-star cast. It even has Simon and Garfunkel on the soundtrack, just to make the “Graduate” connection complete.
The graduate here is the gangly Thomas (Callum Turner), currently lovelorn and at loose ends. His girlfriend Mimi (Kiersey Clemons) does not return his ardent feelings, although they had one great night together.
She plans to study in Croatia, and Thomas is upset. Mimi seems nice, but I think I’m not alone when I say that never in your moviegoing experience will you find yourself rooting more for someone to leave for Croatia.
Thomas is further troubled by learning that his publisher father (Pierce Brosnan) is having an affair with a younger associate, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale). After stalking Johanna, Thomas naturally begins an affair with her himself.
Threaded through this hubbub is Thomas’s budding friendship with a new neighbor, a grizzled alcoholic who, it turns out, is actually a famous but reclusive author. He’s played by Jeff Bridges, and I guess I can see why Bridges (he’s also executive producer) would want to do the change-of-pace part — a kind of J.D. Salinger type, full of one-liners and pop philosophy.
But screenwriter Allen Loeb’s dialogue is clunky when it should be clever (this is a good movie if you want the news bulletin that neighborhoods in New York are changing). And the film also has a twist that comes from way, way out of left field, if not a Dickens novel.
Since he quit James Bond, Brosnan has flourished as an actor. Here, he’s so good I found myself siding with his character against his whiny son, which I suspect was not intended. Cynthia Nixon does what she can with an underwritten role as Thomas’s fragile mother.
Director Marc Webb got some praise for “(500) Days of Summer,” which I didn’t much like (maybe it was the parentheses), although his film “Gifted” from earlier this year was a thoughtful character study.
In “The Only Living Boy,” Webb guides everything smoothly, which is one of the smugly annoying things about it. He doesn’t do Simon and Garfunkel any favors, either.
“The Only Living Boy in New York” (1 star)
One of those periodic attempts to create a “Graduate” for our times, with the usual negative results. A Manhattan lad (Callum Turner), shocked to learn his father (Pierce Brosnan) is having an affair, ends up sleeping with the lady (Kate Beckinsale) himself. A glib and self-satisfied movie, despite the efforts of Jeff Bridges in a change-of-pace supporting role.
Rating: R, for language, subject matter
Opening Friday: Alderwood Mall, Meridian