Autumn in New York (review)

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Card-Carrying Romantics

Isn’t it funny how
Romantic movies can be like that
Kung Po shrimp you had for dinner
Spicy, hot, sensually satisfying…
But usually, they’re like that same Kung Po shrimp
A month later
After you find it in the back of the fridge
Congealed and gummy, with a funny smell, and it makes
You queasy when you nuke it for lunch
And half an hour later, you’re
Puking it up

Autumn in New York is the first movie written by a committee from the Greeting Card Writers Association of America. The “Sorry to hear about your fatal heart condition…” team got together with the “So, now that your tomcatting days are over…” squad and decided they could do as well as anyone else in Hollywood these days. And they were almost right — they did much better. Whereas most writers of supposedly romantic movies are content to merely regurgitate the same old sappy, implausible crap, the Greeting Card Writers Association of America went to the extra effort of reworking the same old sappy, implausible crap to jack up the Trite Quotient and improve the Cliché Count. And they say no one takes pride in their work anymore.

Restaurateur Will (Richard Gere: Runaway Bride, The Jackal)… can’t tie him down! So many lovely ladies to screw! And now he’s got his eye on Charlotte (Winona Ryder: Lost Souls, Edward Scissorhands), practically a blushing virgin less than half his age. She’s wacky and fun, and she makes “crazy hats.” She’s “utterly unpredictable,” Will says, and that’s why he likes her. Ah, but there’s a catch: “I’m sick,” she tells Will. “It’s my heart. Nobody even thought I’d last this long.” Fortunately, she’s only movie-sick, which means that instead of being pale and frail she’s dewy and glowing and poetic. Typical of her non sequiturs: “I can smell the rain. When did I learn to do that?”

I can smell the rain
When did I learn to do that?
Was it when I discovered that
Only people in movies who are dying can possibly
Understand what Life Is All About?
Or was it when I was fishing around for
Something to say that would
Bridge the gap between us
Me, 12 years old, and you, 112?

Of course, Charlotte has a dead, sainted, even more free-spirited mother whom Will knew way back when — Charlotte laughs just like her, naturally. And she’s nice to old people. I don’t mean Gere, though she does fuck the old guy and he probably thinks that’s nice, but no, I mean old ladies walking down the street with canes. She’s so charmingly naive that she gets in the front of the limo with the driver. She’s Special, not like the hundreds of other women he’s banged in the last week — she’s got that irresistible death glow. Did I mention she makes crazy hats? Will is smitten, though he knows that he doesn’t deserve so impossibly wonderful a girl as Charlotte. “You look at me in a way I haven’t quite earned,” he tells her.

You look at me in a way
I haven’t quite earned
It makes me think that you haven’t
Got a clue
What a jerk I am
Though the audience is on to me

It’s supposed to be an epiphany or something for him to choke out the words “I love you” to Charlotte and to commit himself to her, but what kind of commitment is it, really? She’ll be dead soon and he’ll be off the hook. But, damn, right up to the end, when he’s going behind her back and against her wishes to ensure that she gets medical treatment she doesn’t want, she still looks fabulous. Take that, tumorous growth on her heart that’s blocking the flow of her blood, strangling off her oxygen!

Autumn in New York is shot in Amex-Commercial Vision(TM), designed to look like the phony representation of Real Life you get in advertisements for financial services. There are good friends toasting good times, but also people bringing one another Styrofoam coffee cups in hospital waiting rooms… because those are the times when your insurance company — and Hallmark Cards — are there for you.

Isn’t it funny how
It always seems to be raining when
People are sad
In the movies
Why don’t they just buy
An umbrella?

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