Charlotte (Ryder) is a dazzling young hat designer who becomes involved with an aging playboy restaurateur named Will Keane (Gere). At first she is merely another lovely conquest (he was even involved with her mother once), but her innocence and delight in the simplest joys of life spark in him a desire for something more. Of course, what is behind her fascination with life's trivial bits--played out by her over use of the exclamation "wow!"--is the fact that she has the dreaded "terminal illness." Clearly the intent of the filmmakers here is to reach back to an era of classic filmmaking and develop the complicated emotional dynamics and satisfaction of films like "An Affair to Remember" or last year's "End of the Affair." Here, actress-turned-director Joan Chen, who last year received good notices for her helming debut on the Chinese-language film "Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl," is struggling with inferior material here. Screenwriter Allison Burnett's script is generally depthless and always trite. Chen and cinematographer Ghangwei Gu have crafted a film that is lovely to look at, capturing the New York cityscape with a tone and beauty last seen in director Woody Allen's "Manhattan." But pretty pictures do not a good film make. Starring Richard Gere, Winona Ryder, Anthony LaPaglia, Elaine Stritch, Vera Farmiga and Sherry Stringfield. Directed by Joan Chen. Written by Allison Burnett. Produced by Gary Lucchesi, Amy Robinson and Tom Rosenberg. An MGM release. Drama/Romance. Rated PG-13 for language and some sensuality. Running time: 105 min
Autumn in New York
Melodrama is bad enough, contrived melodrama is worse, and badly written contrived melodrama is "Autumn in New York." A mish-mash of well-worn themes and genres, the saccharin storyline in this Richard Gere/Winona Ryder vehicle combines elements of "Pretty Woman," "Love Story" and your average daytime soap opera. Though it finds the occasional sincere moment of romance or humor, it is rife with one cliché after another, including lines of dialogue you can finish without even seeing the movie.