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Autumn in New York

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Autumn in New York

Starring: Richard Gere, Winona Ryder
Director: Joan Chen
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 103 Minutes
Release Date: August 2000
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Anthony LaPaglia, Elaine Stritch, Mary Beth Hurt

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

In AUTUMN IN NEW YORK, Winona Ryder, as Charlotte, is a 28 year old playing a 22 year old ("22 and never been kissed," jokes her friend) who acts like a 15 year old. Charlotte's every other sentence is "Wow!" >From the beginning we can tell that something is wrong with her. With a bad case of terminal giggles, she looks like she may need to be rushed to the emergency room at any time. Certainly someone with such a constant case of nervous laughter will eventually no longer be able to breathe.

Her illness, however, turns out to be a more traditional one in this modern-day LOVE STORY. We learn early-on that Charlotte has a rare heart disease that will take her life within a year.

It is all so sad.

No, not about Charlotte's disease, but about the movie itself. With its lush autumnal color palette, it is one of most handsomely filmed movies this year and has gorgeous stars to match (Winona Ryder and Richard Gere). But it is saddled with a sappy, silly script by Allison Burnett, whose only other screenplays were for those classic films: Red Meat, Bleeding Hearts, and Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight. Joan Chen's fine direction can't overcome the problems with the script, which contains such gems as, "What's the point of being young and beautiful if it's not to keep men waiting."

Richard Gere, as New York Magazine cover boy Will Keane, is a famous restaurateur and "womanizer." The latter malady is a disease as sure and certain as Charlotte's heart trouble. Will tells her that, "if I could be different, I would." He is the type who lies to young women in order to seduce them, whereas she is the sort that stops strangers on the street to offer help. Nevertheless, they fall in love, or at least what passes for love in this movie.

Never is their chemistry really convincing. Charlotte seems more in love with Will's persona than Will himself. And he appears to love her because he feels he's obligated to since he tricked her before he found out she had an upcoming date with the mortician.

51-year-old Gere has the incredible good looks to which every man aspires. With long flowing hair that undulates like an ocean wave and with a smile that could charm even the most unreceptive, Gere is just as handsome as Ryder is beautiful. "You know what's wrong with people like you?" Will's friend John (Anthony LaPaglia), tells him. "Too much sex. It dulls the brain." Just to make sure that we realize that not all movie stars age as gracefully as Gere, who barely ages at all, Mary Beth Hurt, in a cameo as Charlotte's doctor, looks older than her 52 years.

Much is made of the difference in the ages of the two leads. Will once dated Charlotte's mom. Don't worry, they didn't have sex. Charlotte explains that she doesn't mind his being older since "I collect antiques."

Will tells Charlotte upfront that they have "no future" other than a quickie love affair. She trumps him with her two word response -- "I'm sick." After that the movie dramatically changes tone from happy, happy, happy to sad, sad, sad.

Later, in perhaps the movie's most pathetic line, Charlotte tells Will, "In a year or so I could be the sob story you use to bag more chicks." This predictable, would-be tearjerker will leave you remarkably dry eyed. With such trite dialog, this should come as no surprise.

AUTUMN IN NEW YORK runs 1:45. It is rated PG-13 for language and some sensuality and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.

Copyright 2000 Steve Rhodes

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