A New Leaf Screen 11 articles

A New Leaf

1971

A New Leaf Poster
  • A New Leaf is a wryly modest bit of hilarity, written with an ear perfectly attuned to the ornate thrust of its opulent dialogue, and peopled with a rogue's gallery of richly risible bit players.

  • Not all of it works, and the studio cut some of the darker elements (including a murder sequence that May avows was one of the funniest things Jack Weston ever did), but it’s still an often brilliant and frequently hilarious comedy.

  • A New Leaf leaves the characters in an Edenic wilderness, the camera capturing Henry and Henrietta’s ascendance into a heavenly sun. It’s a beautiful moment of emotional summation and one that equalizes our laughter with the divine spirit unique to great cinema.

  • A New Leaf (1971), which May wrote, directed, and stars in, is a devastating feminist psychodrama concealed as amiable dark comedy.

  • A New Leaf is graced with a raft of comedy’s finest practitioners bringing to life one of its finest scripts. I’m reasonably sure that many parts of this movie came about through improvisation of an order that comedians working today can only envy. In addition, the physical humor, particularly as provided by Elaine May, has me rolling on the floor just thinking about it.

  • ...A New Leaf, not so much despite its editorial interventions as at least partly because of them, is nearly a masterpiece, a film of such wit and comic invention that it belongs among the great American comedies.

  • May originally delivered a three-hour film and saw it recut nearly by half, though no amount of studio hacking can efface George Rose as a valet out of Lubitsch, the elegant lewdness of Doris Roberts’ winks, or the sharp tang of the auteur’s sensibility. The punchline is a Paterian epiphany on the edge of a watery abyss, grudgingly yet profoundly moving. Nichols’ The Fortune is a friendly rival’s riposte.

  • ++

    Sight & Sound: Kate Stables
    January 04, 2016 | February 2016 Issue (p. 100)

    Like May's even darker follow-up The Heartbreak Kid, the film sharply skewers the narcissism of a male hero bent on severing himself from a new bride. But May's portrayal of appealing, soft-voiced helplessness, set against Matthau's deadpan slow burn, is what humanizes the film until its eventual change of tone feels credible rather than contrived.

  • Elaine May’s frenzied 1971 comedy, in which she co-stars with Walter Matthau, reveals the essence of marital love more brutally than many confrontational melodramas... Having started out with the hatred, dependency, and surrender it takes most couples years to achieve, Henry and Henrietta are no less suited than regular folks for love until death do them part—one way or another.

  • The sweetness and darkness of May’s brilliant first feature looks at this absurd world, the relationships we find ourselves in (or create) and the institutions we march through with a jaundiced yet utterly human eye.

  • Matthau plays Henry as an unlikely mix of W.C. Fields and Cary Grant, while May never lets Henrietta’s ugly-duckling obliviousness curdle into something sweet. Her character is annoying, and some of the funniest moments in the film seem to find the writer-director-star siding with Henry against his unwitting victim. But May’s gift for the fine details of social awkwardly behavior continues to humanize the character, even when she seems to be dangling on the edge of caricature.

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