Autumn in New York, by Allison Burnett
If it worked with Pretty Woman, why not with Autumn in New York?
Perhaps this was the idea behind this film, albeit Winona Rider does not play a sex worker, but a terminally ill young woman, Charlotte Fielding, with Richard Gere as Will Keane, his usual romantic lead character.
Some elements can be traced back to Love Story and other such successful features that have enjoyed a big box office take and the motion picture is not all taken out of Hades, even if it was nominated for three awards…
One for Razzie as the Worst Screen Couple and the other two in the same category at The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, with the added Worst Actress nomination, for Winona Ryder.
It may be difficult for those who are aware of the buzz surrounding various stars to ignore the stories in which the actress was involved and her personal issues and addictions, or the gerbils that are supposed to be part of the life of the male actor.
Notwithstanding these outside elements- maybe because of them to a certain degree- critics have rejected this feature in unison, giving it an incredible score of only 24 at www.metacritic.com.
Richard Gere is forty eight in the film and he has the role of Will Keane, owner of a restaurant and so many romantic trophies, as a womanizer and a somewhat, perhaps totally, despicable character who takes advantage and keeps women at a distance, because he wants to preserve his solitude- and implied superiority maybe?
In the first few scenes, his current girlfriend finds that he is unable to get too involved, their relationship is not destined to last, hence he has to state it, it is better to know and face the facts…she has to understand that it is over in a nutshell.
Evidently, there is a possibility and maybe this is the implication, the suggestion made by the script, that this is not a man who is so self-absorbed, narcissistic as to resemble The Donald, but on the contrary, we are dealing here with a character that is actually disabled, incapacitated and a victim, incapable to feel deep emotions, love and therefore he is the one who ultimately loses, has no apparatus to enjoy positive emotions, caring for partners and other wonderful sensations.
One night, he meets the innocent, beautiful, Charlotte, who designs hats and whose mother had been one of the many dates and partners of this serial “killer” of relationships and feelings.
Although there is a difference of twenty seven years, the man orders a new design for a hat, for his present girlfriend, Charlotte arrives to his apartment- one wonders why this arrangement is necessary and why not the restaurant or some other place was not preferred-with the new model.
The two of them attend a special party where we briefly see the beautiful, young Vera Farmiga who plays the estranged, not known daughter of the philanderer and Charlotte is dressed in an outré outfit, more of a spectacle than a decent, attractive design, with a bizarre cover.
As the two different characters meet, they have sex and the unlikeable Will Keane utters his usual speech about the relationship being limited in time, explaining to his much younger lover that “this is all he has to give…they will not go further than this and she has to know this upfront…”
The blow comes when she repeats his words mockingly and adds that she is constrained by the fact that she is terminally ill and therefore there is a deadline imposed by her forthcoming departure from this world.
One could say that these are special circumstances and all the ingredients needed to sympathize with the personages are there, the audiences would feel the obvious compassion and regret the terrible fate of a young, vibrant, intelligent and creative young woman, even if or also because she is infatuated with this father figure, who is so ruthless and arrogant, with his eternal smile keeping the distance.
For a few reasons, this natural bond between the public and the dying heroine does not function, one impediment being the artificiality of the actors, with their cabotinage, their usual smiles and known schemes- at least in the case of Gere- with added obstacles from the script.
To complicate things and make the screenplay different from Love Story and other similar romantic dramas, in the plot, the romance between the older man and the soon to depart heroine is complicated by the appearance of the girlfriend who was dismissed at the debut of the film and who sleeps with the antihero, who later explains that it was a mistake, he did not really mean anything and all the usual blabbering.
That was awful and furthermore unnecessary and it seemed to wreck the whole edifice with its preposterous implications- why would one sleep with a woman that he had sent packing a short while ago, while being infatuated with another woman, who is dying and who receives, if not a death blow, at least a severe shock just as she is counting her remaining month on earth.
In conclusion, it is an unsatisfying- to say the least- motion picture, where the hero is old enough to be the father and anyway aged enough to know how to behave in a more suitable manner, protect the younger woman, especially in her condition, with evident flaws in the script, amplified by the rather schematic, unaccomplished manner of acting.