Elaine May‘s 1971 film, A New Leaf, is a misfire, notwithstanding it was butchered through cutting by Paramount Pictures, a company May sued. I’m skeptical of it regardless, though, since some pretty weak May-written comedy dominates the movie’s first few scenes and, several years later, May was willing to direct a movie as fuzzy and unsatisfying as The Heartbreak Kid.
As the concoction goes on, it gets invigoratingly bright and witty, and Walter Matthau does, as John Simon indicated, “a very neat job of humanizing” a wastrel who needs money and chooses to marry for it (and worse). He rightly praises May, a co-star here, for the same kind of humanizing. All the same, A New Leaf is messy. Despite May’s talent, it isn’t nearly as good a comedy as the Harold Lloyd films I’ve reviewed. Old Hollywood, this time, scores over the Seventies.