Kristen Baldwin is baffled and grossed out by ''Autumn in New York''

By Kristen Baldwin
Updated August 21, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT
  • Movie

Why is Winona Ryder still riding high?

Winona Ryder can’t act, and that’s OK. There are a lot of successful actresses who continue to get high profile roles and who are treated like Hollywood royalty despite a lack of talent, box office hits, or any real star appeal. But here’s what isn’t OK about Winona Ryder: Her latest movie — the odious, tedious debacle ”Autumn in New York” — is so offensive to women that the 28 year old should have been too repelled by the script to even consider taking the role.

Why Ryder didn’t pass as soon as she learned the film’s basic premise — girlish, impressionable 22 year old free spirit falls for distinguished, handsome, 48 year old lothario played by Richard Gere — is inexplicable. The tired concept is only made more clichéd by the fact that Ryder’s character, Charlotte, is terminally ill with some kind of tumor in her chest cavity. (She’s heartsick — how poignant!)

Never mind that Charlotte and Gere’s character, a womanizing restaurateur named Will Keane, have zero in common. Never mind that Will broke the heart of (and knocked up the best friend of) Charlotte’s mother years ago. What really should have irked Ryder about ”Autumn” is the fact that it pretends to ”empower” Charlotte by having her sass Will about his slut behavior (she teases him that once she dies she’ll be ”a sob story you could use to bag more chicks”), but ultimately the feisty beauty falls victim to his rampant infidelity anyway. What’s empowering about having your boyfriend screw his old girlfriend at a Halloween party while you entertain his friends’ kids? Not much. Ryder should be ashamed of herself: She’s betrayed women everywhere by embracing such a pathetic female character. Next time, Winona, take your sisterhood a little more seriously.

And the film’s director, Joan Chen isn’t getting off the hook either for directing this girl unfriendly disaster. Why the classy, talented actress/ director didn’t stop Ryder from incessantly batting her eyelashes, speaking like Minnie Mouse, and often visibly wincing at the horrible dialogue, is beyond comprehension. Is there something about the ever withering studliness of Richard Gere that makes intelligent females abandon their better judgment? Maybe the author of ”Smart Women, Foolish Choices” needs to add a chapter on filmmaking.

Autumn in New York

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 105 minutes
  • Joan Chen