August 27, 2000 -- "Autumn in New York" is a depressing tale of love and death set in the bleak, moldering confines of The Big Apple.
I know New York is supposed to be a romantic setting for love stories, but it sure didn't seem to be all that romantic this time around. Richard Gere ("Red Corner") stars as Will Keane, owner of an upscale restaurant and well-known womanizer. Will is one of those guys who never grew up. He avoids commitment to one woman by carrying on a never-ending series of affairs.
Keane rises to the challenge of extra-generational affairs when he spots the daughter of one of his old flames at his restaurant and organizes an elaborate seduction of the young woman. The young lady, Charlotte Fielding (played by Winona Ryder of "Girl, Interrupted") proves to be more than a match for the aging rake, however, and she steals his closely-guarded heart away. Gosh, this sounds like a cheap romance novel. Ah, would that it were, then it would not be so depressing.
Needless to say, Keane treats Charlotte shabily, setting the creaky plot gears churning. I won't spoil the story for those of you who want to see this, but suffice it to say, standard soap opera plot devices crop up before we get to the end of the movie, stuff that really got on my nerves. You could argue that the story is poignant and carries a message about redemption and justice, and the awakening of love in a man who at first seems incapable of such deep feelings. You could argue that, but I'm not buying it. That sort of argument might actually encourage women to date this kind of creep in hopes of "straightening him out." Right. Get real.
The movie has some redeeming values, however. A sub-plot about Keane connecting with his long-lost daughter is nice. His constant battles with one of his employees, John, (Anthony LaPaglia of "Sweet and Lowdown") is also interesting. John is one of those irritating people who have all the answers and don't mind telling you when you're making an ass of yourself. If Keane was the kind of creep he was portrayed to be, he would have fired John long ago for his honesty as well as his keen insight. That's the last thing you want if you are a hard-core playboy.
The movie is directed by Joan Chen, who directed "Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl." She brings to this film that kind of soft-focus otherworld, saturated color look of the Chinese cinema. It is a good attempt to lend an artistic spin to a plot right out of "Days of Our Lives." Gere and Ryder have good chemistry and the production values of this film are very high. The project is loaded with talent, but the plot, like a lead necklace, pulls it under. This film rates a C.
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