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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

A New Leaf (1971)



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A New Leaf is one of those comedies that has so much fun with itself, we can't help but to enjoy ourselves, too. It stars Walter Matthau as a rich man who knows more about spending money than making it. When his accountant informs him he is broke, he sets a scheme in motion to get rich again -- marry a rich woman no one will miss, then bump her off. Of course it's not that simple. The rich woman in question (played by Elaine May, who wrote the script and directed the film) is as smart and naive as Matthau's character is dim and cunning. She also happens to be a sweet little thing, and it's simply unconscionable that other people, too, are trying to mine the bank account of his dear, doomed bride.

Sadly, A New Leaf is a casualty of studio-forced cuts. Elaine May's cut of the film clocked in around three hours. Paramount was nervous about releasing a comedy that long and chopped it almost in half. It is therefore almost surprising that the released version is even coherent, let alone so good, but the editing shows: there's a whole other movie lurking in there somewhere. Whether the longer cut was better or not, I have no idea. Added length is not always a good thing. But it's unfortunate that May's vision was not realized.