Autumn in New York

Autumn in New York (15)

I TOOK my girlfriend to see this May to December weepie as an emotional experiment on the basis of she normally cries at anything that involves romance, death or cuddly puppies.

Alas, there were no cuddly puppies in this updated version of Love Story, but romance and death were there in abundance as 48-year-old bachelor restaurateur Will Keane (Richard Gere) and 22-year-old milliner Charlotte Fielding fall in love.

The twist in the tale is that she is terminally ill, with only a year or so to live before her damaged heart gives out. He, on the other hand, is a committed lothario who, against the odds, gives up his playboy lifestyle and opts for monogamy as long as she lives and breathes.

In that respect, this is more October to December – a mawkish, twee and glib tale of romance built on clichés and unbelievability as Gere gives up his womanising ways and Ryder transforms him into a caring, sharing individual.

He is the October – a middle-aged man with friends, girls but no family. She is December – a pretty young woman with everything to live for, but with nothing on which to shape her future.

The main problem with Autumn in New York is not its performances – Gere is charming, charismatic and believably smitten, while Ryder locks into their chemistry. Instead, it is in the no-surprises storyline which, annoyingly, plays its hand from the outset and offers no twists as the tale progresses.

There is also the added burden of the timeworn story of an older man falling for a (much) younger woman. It’s only faintly believable, despite a scene showing Gere and Ryder messing about like kids in the bathroom, or his frustrated comment to her to stop behaving like a juvenile.

It attempts to formulate a message that constant womanising will leave Gere an old and bitter man, and that family life is king. It also proffers a muddled message about parental responsibility, and another about love being all.

By far the best performance comes from Elaine Stritch as Ryder’s feisty old grandmother – a wily old bird who has seen all Gere’s charming tricks before, when he romanced her daughter.

Now, 25 years on, he is repeating himself with her granddaughter. She warns him off; he ploughs on regardless.

Directed by actress Joan (The Last Emperor) Chen, Autumn in New York aspires to be a 21st century Love Story but succeeds only in being a quasi version of the old yarn of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back again.

The anxious glances at watches begin long before the finale – an absolute stinker of a finale which utterly failed to draw a tear from the eye of my beloved.

If your girlfriend doesn’t cry, then it’s bound to come a cropper, and this one does. By the end you’re desperate for Ryder to shuffle off her mortal coil. When she eventually does, it’s greeted with relief, not sadness. Shurely shome mishtake?

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