Magazine article The Spectator

Unfulfilled Promise

Magazine article The Spectator

Unfulfilled Promise

Article excerpt


Autumn in New York (15, selected cinemas)

I know every screen romance has to be named after an old song, but, if they'd asked me, I'd have told them to steer clear of `Autumn In New York'. It's got a ravishing tune by Vernon Duke - aka the Russian composer Vladimir Dukelski - and, if he'd shoved it under the nose of Ira Gershwin, John LaTouche or one of his other writing partners, he might have got a lyric that did justice to the music. Instead, he wrote one himself, and, aside from being unmemorable, it's also remarkably infelicitous:

Autumn in New York

Transforms the slums into Mayfair...

Really? And, even if it's true, I'd eschew the word 'slums'. Joan Chen's Autumn in New York The Movie has a similar problem. It's suffused in loving, ravishing, glowing, burnished autumnal shots of Central Park but the words - by screenwriter Allison Burnett - never live up to the landscape and the lyrical romance it promises. The other song you'll find yourself singing is the theme from Love Story: Where do I begin/To tell the story of how great a love can be? Well, you start with Will Keane (Richard Gere): he's a 48-year-old swinging millionaire restaurateur, loves 'em and leaves 'em. Then he meets Charlotte Fielding (Winona Ryder): she's 22, quotes Emily Dickinson and designs kooky hats. Attagirl, hatter girl! The trailers and posters are a bit like slo-mo tennis: `He taught her how to live. She taught him how to love.' Hmm. Not bad. Let's do another. `He fell in love for the first time. She fell in love for ever.' Okay, now try one of your own: `He bought a hat. She bought the farm.'

Yes, folks, that coughing you hear is not the fat guy behind you but Winona Ryder, who's coming down with a terminal case of Bette Davis Tasteful Illness Disease. Winona is petite and lovely and doe-eyed as ever, and who knew she could cough? It's when she stops coughing and starts doing that heightened movie foreplay dialogue that the problems start.

`How,' Charlotte asks Will, `did you become the food guy?'

`Food,' says Will, pausing for a while either because he has a great thought coming up or because he was expecting Charlotte to cough, '. . . is the only truly beautiful thing that nourishes.'

`Is that a quote?' says Charlotte, impressed.

Will pauses for another eternity or two. It appears he's suffering from a terminal case of Richard Gere Thoughtful Pause Disease - America's silent killer. But eventually he stops pausing: no, it's not a quote. `It's me,' he says.

But no sooner do they hit it off than Charlotte has to tell Will that she has a rare heart condition that probably means she'll die within a year, mainly because she doesn't want to see a specialist, none of whom can be found in a hick burg like Manhattan but apparently have to be flown in from Cleveland and Des Moines and Pocatello and such like. …

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