Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Only Living Boy In New York

Genre: Drama
Premise: Coming-of-age tale about a young man trying to find himself in New York City.
About: Allan Loeb is one of the hottest writers working today. He broke onto the scene with Black List favorite, "Things We Lost In The Fire" (which I've been told is a much better script than it is a movie), penned the surprise hit "21," and most recently finished the job of one of the most sought after assignments in town, "Money Never Sleeps" (aka "Wall Street 2"), and he's got like six other projects in development. The Only Living Boy In New York is unique in that it's one of the only drama specs sold in the last 5 years that didn't have any talent attached (translation: It was really f'ing good).
Writer: Allan Loeb

Like I always say, if you're gonna steal, steal from the best. "Living Boy" is basically "The Graduate" meets "Great Expectations" with a pinch of "The Great Gatsby" thrown in for good measure. The coming-of-age stuffy upper-crust 20-something angsty tale in NY is likely to appall as much as it appeals since older folk tend to roll their eyes at insignificant "problems" us young men endure ("Oh, I missed work because I partied too late. What ever am I going to do?"). This attitude reached an all-time fever pitch during the successful run of "Garden State," a movie "Living Boy" will no doubt be compared to. But while "Boy" definitely has its share of angst, its characters lift it up and beyond Zach Braff's New Jersey opus. Things feel a bit more meaningful here. And I can attribute that mainly to Loeb's excellent writing.

20-something Thomas lives in New York City. He's best friends with a super-hot (in a hip alternative way) college chick named Mimi. In an ecstacy-inspired night of regret and stupidity, Mimi makes the mistake of granting Thomas an all-night sex-a-thon. As a result, he's fallen hopelessly in love with her. Of course Mimi considers the night a monumental college-level mistake (boy did I have my share of those) and doesn't see why Thomas can't just get over it. Thomas spends a good portion of "Living Boy" wondering why a sweet decent-looking guy like himself can't land a hot girl like Mimi.

That's the least of his worries though. While wandering aimlessly through New York one day, he accidentally spots his asshole of a father kissing a woman that is definitely NOT his mother. The 30-something icy business woman, Johanna, is easily the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. Thomas is furious. His mother is already on the verge of a mental breakdown and finding out that her husband is cheating on her would surely push her over the edge.

Rounding out the cast of characters is the mysterious W.F. Gerald (it even sounds like someone from The Great Gatsby), a 50-something "unmade bed of a man," as Loeb puts it. The wise W.F. is always there to dole out his sage advice when Thomas needs it. And Thomas needs it in spades.

He begins following his father's mistress and when he finally works up the courage to confront her, he demands that she stop seeing him. The woman, who seems not to know of these things called "feelings," makes it very clear that both she and her father can make their own decisions and that Thomas has no say in the matter. She follows this by accusing Thomas of falsely approaching her - insisting that the only reason he followed her was because he wants her himself. Thomas is appalled at the suggestion and storms away.

Later on, at a swanky upper crust party, Thomas runs into Johanna separately from his father, and she proceeds to seduce him (for the sport of it, of course), taking him home and engaging in a wild night of animal sex. Thomas now finds himself in an affair within an affair...sort of... as he starts sleeping with the same woman that is sleeping with his father. That's comfortable. Of course Mimi, playing off of Thomas' new popularity with the ladies, suddenly changes her mind and decides that she wants a relationship with Thomas. But Thomas has long since fallen in love with Johanna, and now cares only that she dump his father so the two can be together alone...and not...with his father (your average 20-something dilemma).

The way Thomas weaves in and out of these storylines is humbling to say the least. Loeb is an incredibly gifted writer. One of the true marks of great writers is how they describe their characters, and Loeb doesn't disappoint.
...Mimi Pastori

wears a double dyed pink wife-beater that stops just short of her bumper sticker... the Chinese symbol of balance. She owns a temple of a body built of feminine mesa-morph and displays small diamond stud in her nose.

All of Mimi's attempts to hide her beauty fail miserably.
Or the way they write dialogue...
I think... I... August eighth. I think August eighth was real.

It was amazing, Thomas, but it was just one night. We were both on ecstasy, I thought I was a pirate and I was vulnerable because Nick left... and it was just one night.

Well, I'm crazy about you.

And I'm crazy about you. But--

Don't say "as a friend."

He pulled the words right out of her mouth...

Why not, Thomas? Why is that so bad?

Because pretty girls like to recruit their rejections and call them friends.
Or just how they can describe something in such a way that you know exactly what they mean...
Howard immediately looks around. This transparent look-through-you gaze that famous and extremely rich people do when they want to talk to someone more important.
The Only Living Boy In New York's biggest strength is also its biggest weakness. We're looking at a character study here. And because Loeb is so focused on these great characters, the story itself is minimal to non-existent. Which is fine. That's par for the course in this genre. But "Living Boy" stops just short of feeling like something important. It doesn't make you reevaluate your life the way a viewing of "The Graduate" does. It's limited to the inter-connectivity of these handful of characters. But it's a great handful. I wouldn't mind scooping up a few of them and tossing them in my own screenplays. If you're a fan of "coming-of-age" films, this is a must read. If not, I would still encourage you to check this out. But I can't promise it's going to knock your socks off.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Take your time and describe your main characters people! Look at the way Loeb describes Mimi above. It takes time to come up with that. But it pays off. I know a lot of writers who would've gone with, "Mimi, 22, is artsy and hot." I'm not saying I haven't seen professional writers do this. I have. But you get so little time in a screenplay to convey the true essence of a character, and if you nail it the description, it makes things so much easier on you and the reader later on.