Plot: Henry Graham (Walter Matthau) has always lived as a man of means, able to do as he pleases and enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. But his excessive spending habits have finally caught up with him and soon, he will ousted from the high society world he knows so well and forced to survive on his own skills. As he has no skills or ambition, he needs to find a fast, simple method to remain in the lap of luxury, so he decides to find a woman of means and get married. In order to keep up appearances, he borrows some money from his uncle, but if he doesn’t find a bride and repay the loan within six weeks, he will lose what little he has left. A bride in six weeks is no easy task, especially for a man with Henry’s unique persona…

Entertainment Value: This is a dry, often dark comedy that is ruthless, sometimes cruel, and above all else, hilarious. The humor is offbeat and very droll most of the time, so it takes a certain sense of humor to appreciate, but if you do appreciate it, this is a riotous experience. This dry, sarcastic style is going to either delight you, or leave you ice cold, likely not much middle ground here. I think the inherent darkness of the material comes from how authentic it feels, a little amplified perhaps, but an honest look at how some view the privileges of wealth. The movie also hinges on romance in a sense and there is some affection involved, but it is displayed in ways that seem offbeat, but make sense within the movie’s world. Henry might not be a warm man, but if he develops a skill or puts in effort, that is essentially affection in his world. But don’t expect a romantic comedy, as that isn’t the case here, it is simply a dark, dry comedy that happens to involve some relationship elements. The movie also weaves in some dramatic threads with great skill, cutting in these more serious stretches with seamless results. I can see why A New Leaf might not resonate with everyone, but I found it to be a darkly hilarious movie with some terrific performances.

The lead of A New Leaf is Walter Matthau and in truth, I couldn’t imagine anyone else in this role. He is able to nail the dry, sarcastic humor of the character, as well as the entitled, arrogant presence he exudes. His timing is on point and pretty much any time he banters with someone, the scene is effective. Even basic conversations tend to be humorous here, as Matthau is so deep into this obnoxious role. I also appreciated that while he is cocky and entitled, he is not oblivious and is open about his faults, as well as how to hide them when needed. Elaine May is his romantic interest and in addition to playing such a prominent role, May also served as writer and director of A New Leaf, so this was very much her project. Her performance is very good, a little much with the quirkiness at times, but still well done. She and Matthau make an odd, but interesting pair and their banter is great. The cast also includes Jack Weston, George Rose, Graham Jarvis, James Coco, and in a small, but memorable role, Doris Roberts. A rock solid supporting cast that is more than up to the task, but Matthau runs the show and his performance carries the movie.

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