Richard Gere and Winona Ryder in Autumn in New York.
It is said that writers are treated with the least respect of anyone in Hollywood. Yet, it is a good script that determines more then anything whether or not a movie will entertain or enthrall, as Autumn in New York proves. What could have been a strong romantic movie with two attractive stars in one of the most glamorous cities in the world, is instead turned into typical 'Movie of the Week' stuff without clear character motivation and an ending that can be seen from a mile away, and all because of a weak script. If that isn't power worthy of respect, I don't know what is.
One of the things commented on by most viewers of the trailer is the disparate ages of the two leads. Believe me, that is the least of this movie's problems. In fact, that really isn't a problem at all, because unlike a great many movies, this one does not ignore the age gap, it actually comments on and makes jokes about it, thus alleviating what at first seems like an embarrassment.
In Autumn in New York, Richard Gere plays Will Keane, an aging playboy and restaurant owner who meets and seduces a young, innocent girl, played by Winona Ryder. He treats her to a glamorous evening out on the town before taking her back to his place for the night. The following morning however, before he can give her the brush off, she tells him that she is dying of heart disease. Moved by sympathy or something, the plot never really makes it clear, they try to make a go of the relationship, but it doesn't work and they break up. Then in one of those movie moments, he decides he loves her after all and the movie moves towards it's inevitable ending, only pausing along the way to bring Will's estranged daughter into the plot, in the movie's only real twist.
Despite the predictability of the plot, this is not the movie's weakest point. That award goes to the dialogue. I am fan of both Richard Gere and Winona Ryder, but neither of them can manage lines like, 'You mean leave the universe of me, to get a cup of latte?' or 'Food is the only thing beautiful that you can depend upon.', with any real sincerity.
As for the direction, it is merely adequate. I am no film student or expert on camera angles, but halfway through this movie, I couldn't help but notice that there were no long shots. The camera is constantly close to the actors or in full close up and gives the movie a very claustrophobic feel. For a movie with New York in the title, you see very little of it, except for those obligatory scene changes where suddenly you see the skyline for a second. This movie could have been known as Autumn in Any City USA, for all the part that the city plays in this film. Not that I can really blame the director from wanting to focus so closely on two such attractive stars, but a few wider shots might have broken up the monotony.
Although many people may be looking for a romantic date movie to rent, sadly, they will have to keep looking.
Photos © Copyright United Artists (2000)