What are the odds that two movies in one summer would have Simon & Garfunkel titles? It gets even stranger: The songs are consecutive tracks on the same album. The movies, and songs, couldn’t be more different. First came the fast and furious “Baby Driver.” Now arrives the arch and allusive “Only Living Boy in New York.” The better movie gets the better song.
At least “Boy” has a reason for going the S&G route. Paul and Art’s introduction to the movies came via the soundtrack for “The Graduate” (1967), and “Boy” offers an upside-down, inside-out, East Coast version of Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson. There are also climactic plot elements that come straight out of “The Big Chill” (1983) and “Stella Dallas” (1937). I’d tell you who plays the Barbara Stanwyck equivalent, except that would be cheating — and you wouldn’t believe me, anyway.
As Thomas, a rather gormless young man with literary aspirations, Callum Turner looks like a larval Richard Gere. That’s not his fault. His having the unimposing presence of a Spider-Senseless Peter Parker presumably is. Or maybe it’s Marc Webb’s. His previous two outings before directing “Boy” were the Andrew Garfield “Spider-Man” movies (2012, 2014).
Thomas comes by those aspirations naturally. His father (Pierce Brosnan) is a big-deal New York book publisher. His mother (Cynthia Nixon) name drops Andy Warhol and used to write for ARTnews. “Throwing dinner parties is how she self-medicates,” Thomas tells his girlfriend, Mimi (Kiersey Clemons). Brosnan and (especially) Nixon more than hold up their acting end. Turner and (especially) Clemons do not.
Thomas gets some help raising his gorm level from one of his father’s colleagues, Johanna (Kate Beckinsale), and a mysterious neighbor (Jeff Bridges). “Colleague” is a euphemism; and the relationship that develops between Thomas and Johanna is “Boy” at its least plausible and most predictable. That’s really saying something, for a movie that’s so dependent on shameless coincidences, literary conceits, and general sententiousness.
The movie’s wild card is Bridges. His character — part guidance counselor, part shaman — is such a writer’s device that you keep expecting to find out he’s Thomas’s imaginary friend. What he turns out to be may be even less believable, but it does make for an unexpectedly happy ending.
Bridges gives every indication of enjoying the part — when has he ever gotten paid to quote W.B. Yeats and Ezra Pound? — so whenever he’s on screen the viewer has the prospect of enjoyment, too. That’s also true of the movie’s visuals. New York looks very appealing: uptown, downtown, even the little bit of Brooklyn we see. Think of “Boy” as a Bridges highlight reel and Gotham travelogue, instead of precious coming-of-age story, and it’s not half bad. But it isn’t, so it is.
THE ONLY LIVING BOY IN NEW YORK
Directed by Marc Webb. Written by Allan Loeb. Starring Callum Turner, Jeff Bridges, Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Kiersey Clemons. At Boston Common, West Newton. 88 minutes. R (language and some drug material).Mark Feeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.