Released in the States without press screenings - (against the wishes of its stars) - this autumnal tearjerker isn't the complete disaster you might have expected... But it ain't exactly a classic either. Lacking the tragic pathos of actress-turned-director Joan Chen's 1998 debut, Xiu-Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl (inexplicably still awaiting a UK release), it's a three-hankie weepie whose relentless assault on our collective tearducts is undermined by a mawkish script that manages to leave no death-bed cliché unrecycled.
To its credit, Autumn In New York makes no attempt to mask the age difference between its leads, - in fact, it increases it (Ryder is actually nine years older than her character). With an illegitimate daughter, greying locks and a string of ex-girlfriends, Will Keane (Gere) has been around the track more times than the mechanical hare. But even taking Gere's youthful charisma into account, it's a bit rich to have this fortysomething lothario undergo a Damascan conversion so late in the game.
If Gere's character strains credibility, Ryder's blows it out of the water. A virgin who lives with her crotchety grandmother (Elaine Stritch, giving the film's best performance), you almost expect her to enter wearing a halo. Charlotte also suffers one of those mysterious Hollywood afflictions that makes her seem more radiant the closer she comes to extinction. It's true what they say: death does become her. No actress's career is complete without at least one terminal case on the CV, but you can't help feeling the drama would be more effective had it been Gere looking death in the face.
Chen's debut had an austere beauty which perfectly complemented its sad story, and at least she brings the same visual flair to this sophomore effort.
A shame, then, that she couldn't have invested her considerable talents in a more original project than this by-the-numbers rehash of the Love Story formula.