Marc Webb‘s latest drama, The Only Living Boy in New York, is a new kind of New York movie. On one hand, like many Gotham-set stories, the film, penned by Allan Loeb, is a love letter to the Big Apple. And on the other hand, well, this might be the first major film to take NYC to task for selling out, effectively losing its essence as gentrification spreads and beloved landmarks — be they rock venues or graffiti meccas — continue to shutter.
Thomas is a postgrad rebelling against his bougie uptown family by taking up residence in the ever-hipsterfying Lower East Side, where he frequents the trendy burlesque club the Box with a friend (Kiersey Clemons) he not so secretly crushes on. Thomas’s world is thrown for a loop, however, when the pair spy his suave father (Pierce Brosnan) out with another woman (Kate Beckinsale).
Clemons (Dope, Neighbors 2) says that New York is her favorite place to film but agrees with the narrative that the city is losing its edge. “When the masses start to exploit the aesthetic of anywhere, it’s gonna be sucked dry,” she told Yahoo Movies at the film’s recent Los Angeles press day. “That’s what we do. We like to gentrify things and ruin them. … I still love New York, though.”
Jeff Bridges, who plays W.F. Gerald, a mysterious bohemian sort who moves into Thomas’s LES apartment building and immediately begins bestowing romantic advice, proclaims, “There’s been a war between art and commerce, and commerce won.”
But the Oscar-winning Big Lebowksi actor thinks that New York isn’t alone. “L.A.’s my hometown, and I can feel it here. It’s probably happening everywhere,” he said. “There’s a certain nostalgia or sentimentality or romantic feeling about the past, you know? You’re always thinking back about ‘the good ol’ days.’ But that birth of the new is always around the corner, and that idea that commerce is kind of winning out, that stimulates some of the artists. You guys better get to work and do some creative s***.”
Bridges longs for the days of Talking Heads shows at CBGB’s — now a clothing store operated by fashion designer John Varvatos — but the actor does take comfort in knowing that one New York institution will never close (we think). “The spirit of Central Park hasn’t really changed that much. What a great idea to put a park right in the middle. Can you imagine that town without a park? The soul of the park has remained the same.”
Beckinsale doesn’t quite buy the hoopla. Is it just that it’s always fashionable to complain about New York? “Everyone thinks everything has lost its soul, and 30 years from now they’ll be [saying the same thing],” the London native said. “I think there’s something super-special about New York. There’s a magical something going on there that’s definitely still there.”
The Only Living Boy in New York opens Friday. Watch an exclusive clip:
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