"Weird Christ Figure"
What You Need To Know:
Some beautiful photography cannot save AUTUMN IN NEW YORK’s shallow characterization, choppy editing and weird story developments. Also, the movie’s redemptive and, at one important point, even Christian, symbolism, is undercut by its New Age pagan worldview. For example, Charlotte becomes a kind of reincarnated person, a ghost from Will’s past who haunts him and brings him to his senses so to speak. Furthermore, although his relationship with Charlotte appears to redeem Will from his sins, the means of that redemption is partly through their sexual immorality or fornication with one another. The fornication is not particularly graphic, but it, and an occult tone, definitely taint this convoluted soap opera
(PaPa, Ro, O, C, LLL, S, AA, DD, MM) New Age pagan worldview with romantic & even mild occult tones & some redemptive elements including undeveloped Christ figure & crucifix shown at crucial moment in movie's ending, but no positive mention of Jesus Christ or His Gospel; 16 mostly strong obscenities & 11 mostly mild profanities; no violence; implied & depicted fornication (but only faces & hands shown in scene of depicted sex) & discussion of sexual betrayal; no sexual nudity depicted but naturalistic upper male nudity; alcohol use & drunkenness; smoking & verbal, lighthearted reference to dead woman’s one-time marijuana use in the crazy 1960s, although there is an implication that the drug use back then was not ultimately really good; and, betrayal, lying, 48-year-old playboy sleeps with 21-year-old woman who happens to be the daughter of an intimate friend from his past, & young woman thinks she can change if not redeem (merely through romance) an older sinful man more than twice her age.
Winona Ryder plays a weird Christ figure in AUTUMN IN NEW YORK, a movie that was only previewed by members of the foreign press. In the movie, Ryder’s character, Charlotte, is a 21-year-old, childlike milliner who finds romance with a 48-year-old New York playboy and restaurant owner, Will Keane, played by Richard Gere.
AUTUMN IN NEW YORK opens with Will meeting Charlotte at her birthday party in his upscale restaurant. They are immediately attracted to one another, despite their age difference. Will likes Charlotte’s youthful unpredictability, and Charlotte is anxious to explore Will’s inner character, even though she knows he’s a playboy. Will is surprised to learn that Charlotte’s grandmother is an elderly ex-socialite, Dolly, whom he knew long ago. Dolly, played by stage actress Elaine Stritch, has a secret insight into Charlotte and Will’s relationship and clearly disapproves of their budding romance. In short order, Will learns the secret, which involves both Charlotte’s family roots and an intimate friend from his past, and discovers that Charlotte has a possibly fatal heart condition. He continues the relationship anyway, but his sexually promiscuous character endangers their “love.” Essentially, Will’s sinful past is catching up with him, but Charlotte thinks her love can redeem Will.
Charlotte is clearly a Christ figure in this story. Indeed, Will does find a measure of repentance and redemption in the end. He even reconciles with a person whom he hurt years ago. In fact, at a crucial point in the movie’s redemptive ending, the camera focuses briefly on the image of a gold crucifix.
The movie only takes this symbolism so far, however, as if it’s trying to avoid any really meaningful Christian implications. For example, not only is Jesus Christ and His Gospel not mentioned, but the movie also gives its religious symbolism a New Age pagan impact. In effect, Charlotte becomes a kind of reincarnated person, a ghost from Will’s past who haunts him and brings him to his senses so to speak. At one important point in the story, Charlotte is even able to tell that Will is lying to her merely by touching his heart while they ride back from a party in a taxicab. Thus, Charlotte, who lives by her emotions rather than her intellect, has a sixth sense that takes on an occult quality.
This New Age paganism, combined with a romantic subtext, ultimately turns AUTUMN IN NEW YORK away from the Christian possibilities in its story. The fact that the movie approves of Will and Charlotte’s sexual immorality with two scenes of implied and depicted fornication adds to its pagan worldview. Although the scenes are not really graphic, the movie heightens their impact on the story.
Artistically, AUTUMN IN NEW YORK has a convoluted, contrived soap opera feel to it, like something from a bad romance novel. Given his playboy character, it is clear that someone like Will Keane might very well be attracted to a beautiful young woman like Charlotte. What is not believable, however, is Charlotte’s attraction to Will because the movie makes clear from the beginning that Charlotte knows about Will’s playboy lifestyle through a recent cover article in a local magazine that practically everyone’s been reading. The shallow character development in AUTUMN IN NEW YORK really fails to bring out the reason why Charlotte even considers an affair with such a man. Viewers are left to surmise that, since Charlotte’s heart condition may only give her a brief time to live, she decides she might as well take a chance on Will. Director Joan Chen fails to consider the fact, however, that it has become pretty much common knowledge in today’s world that it’s really dangerous for women to think that they can change, much less redeem, a sinful man. This aspect of the movie may be even more dangerous for teenage minds than the movie’s old man, younger woman plot. It doesn’t take a biblical scholar, therefore, to recognize the moral and psychological problems inherent in this movie.
Furthermore, although the photography in AUTUMN IN NEW YORK is beautiful, the character development, acting and editing are not only shallow, they seem choppy and unplanned. This only adds to the movie’s weird mixture of Christian symbolism, New Age thinking, romanticist subtext, and mild occult tone.
AUTUMN IN NEW YORK is thus one confused movie. This is too bad, because it’s good to occasionally get a soap opera that transcends its genre or even one that manages to contain some Christian elements.