Autumn in New York

When studios release movies without critic screenings beforehand, it is usually the sign of a turkey. Autumn in New York did not have the benefit of critics seeing it beforehand, which baffled stars Richard Gere and Winona Ryder. They were proud of the movie, and wanted reviews out so people would go. The studio claimed that by not allowing critics to screen it, crucial plot elements would remain secret. It turns out that there really are no secret plot elements, Autumn in New York is basically Love Story updated and in New York. As for the quality, it is not good, but probably better than what everybody was expecting.

This is yet another older man/younger woman romance, and the thing this time is that the woman, Charlotte Fielding, has a terminal disease. This point is crucial to the plot, but to keep it secret is stupid. When Charlotte tells Will Keane, this changes their relationship and drives it forward. The entire movie relies on this, and it happens early in the movie. It would be wrong to say what happens at the end, although it is not too difficult to guess. Keane (Richard Gere, Runaway Bride, Red Corner) is restaurant owner with a long string of conquests. He does not want to settle down with one woman. This changes when he meets Fielding (Winona Ryder, Girl, Interrupted, Lost Souls). Fielding is in her early twenties and Keane is almost fifty. His reputation proceeds him, but Fielding falls for him anyway. He then tells her that they will not last, and that he will likely end things. She then drops her bomb on him, which stuns Keane. He doesn't know whether to stay with her or leave quickly. This process wreaks havoc on their relationship and by the time Keane finally decides he wants her, Fielding already began pulling away.

The main thing going against Autumn in New York is that both Keane and Fieldling, and Gere and Ryder have little chemistry together. Allison Burnett's (Red Meat) script gives little opportunity for any meaningful conversation, relying more on banal conversation that elicits groans from the audience. Ryder's character falls for Keane because of basic infatuation. She knows his reputation, and she is (supposed to be) smart, but she still jumps headfirst into the relationship. The only logical reason is that she is trying to live the remainder of her life. On the other hand, Keane radiates slime. His attempts to woo Fielding are blatantly obvious, and when Fielding tells him she didn't see his lame lines, no one knows if she's lying or telling the truth. Gere carries a smirk through most of the movie that also does not help make his character more likable. It doesn't help that Anthony LaPaglia (Sweet and Lowdown, Company Man) plays John, one of Keane's employees, who serves as a conscience to him. John is by far the most likable character in the movie, but has little screen time. The story is far too familiar to be enjoyed.

Director Joan Chen (Xiu Xiu, the Sent-Down Girl) redeems the movie with her stunning visual directions. Her New York is an ideal place, little resembling reality. Keane and Fieldling live a fairy tale, in a perpetually clean and inviting city. They walk down leaf-strewn paths, with gorgeously orange and yellow leaves falling around them. Small children also play along sidewalks or run through parks. She even makes traffic jams look pleasing, shooting them from far off and slightly out of focus, enhancing the background of shots. There is no trash anywhere in sight. Chen makes New York come alive in the fall, framing the romance between Keane and Fielding. The leaves look beautiful, but they are dying. Even when winter finally arrives, there is little bleakness. Chen creates environments where the snow looks warm and comforting. So it looks great, but Autumn in New York quickly becomes tiring to the point of boredom.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 43 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language and some sensuality.

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