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A New Leaf (1971)

A New Leaf

Director:Elaine May
Cast:Walter Matthau, Elaine May, George Rose
Genre:Film, Comedy

By Heather Joslyn | Posted

Now's the time of year to make resolutions. In writer/director Elaine May's underappreciated 1971 comedy A New Leaf, spoiled playboy Henry Graham (Walter Matthau) resolves to remain rich. He's been rich all his life, but he learns that he's squandered his fortune and must either enter the work force or marry money--lots of it, and soon, or his uncle will collect all of Henry's earthly possessions in payment for a debt. Henry reluctantly resolves to take a bride, and into his life stumbles Henrietta Lowell (May), a shy, scatterbrained botanist who's been left with a huge inheritance. Henrietta is so helpless at even the most basic social niceties that she "must be vacuumed after every meal," Henry laments, and he's horrified at her unpretentious fondness for public transportation and Mogen David wine coolers. Nevertheless, he marries her, takes control of her household, and soon begins plotting his widowerhood. May's script is traditional screwball comedy with sharp satiric teeth (Henry asks snooty party guests if they're "by any chance related to the Boston Hitlers") and her performance as the overwhelmed Henrietta is heartbreaking in its sweetness; she turns the simple act of donning a nightgown into a dance of awkward sexuality. Britisher George Rose is delightfully droll as Henry's anxious valet, and Matthau is at his most hilariously grumpy.

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