There is a better, more touching movie hidden somewhere inside The Only Living Boy in New York, and you can often see it creeping in around the edges. It's not to be found in the somewhat empty coming-of-age narrative at the film's center, which follows Thomas (Callum Turner), a precocious, snarky and (of course) melancholy recent college grad having trouble deciding what to do with his life. The offspring of a publishing executive father (Pierce Brosnan) and a neurotic artist mother (Cynthia Nixon), Thomas likes to mope about how New York isn't New York anymore, how everything today has lost its edge. (He's fond of saying, "New York's most vibrant neighborhood right now is Philadelphia.")
At least some of the young man's bitterness, however, comes from the fact that he's been rebuked by his beautiful best friend Mimi (Kiersey Clemons), with whom he once had a late-night hookup. Mimi can see through his emptiness.
Can the film, though? Thomas is, in a word, insufferable, and as long as the movie keeps him at its center, you may find yourself struggling to care about anything he does. Some help, however, is on the way. Moving into his new apartment, Thomas meets a mysteriously chatty, hard-drinking neighbor W.F. (Jeff Bridges) who begins schooling him in the ways of life and love. The relationship is intriguing -- Bridges does a lot of the heavy lifting here. Thomas' attitudes and postures do get interrogated and undercut. But the filmmakers still clearly expect us to like this kid, and it's hard to feel anything for a character who remains largely a cipher.