A New Leaf | Chicago Reader

A New Leaf

Rated G 102 minutes 1971

Writer-director-star Elaine May's first feature (1971). Not all of it works, and the studio nixed her original black ending, but it's an often brilliant and frequently hilarious comedy. Walter Matthau, cast wildly against type, plays a spoiled playboy suddenly deprived of his wealth who plots to marry and murder a wealthy, klutzy, and dysfunctional botanist (May, playing sort of a female Jerry Lewis). May's savage take on her characters irresistibly recalls Stroheim; she's at once tender and corrosive (as well as narcissistic and self-hating). This is painful comedy, to be sure, but there's a lot of soul and spirit behind it. With George Rose and William Redfield.

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