Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A NEW LEAF (1971)

Is it just me or doesn't Walter Matthau look like a Monkees-era Michael Nesmith in that poster?

I bought this movie for three reasons: I like Walter Matthau, the film is rather obscure and every review I've read was extremely positive including Roger Ebert's four stars out of four. I was also still excited from my recent discovery of a forgotten Jack Lemmon romantic comedy, THE APRIL FOOLS, that I thought was wonderful. A NEW LEAF, despite all the glowing reviews, is not that good of a movie. In fact, I found it boring and uneven. The uneven part makes sense, because I just now discovered that the original cut of the movie was over an hour longer and even had Matthau going around killing people! When the studio saw the finished product they trimmed it down into this forgettable mess.

The film opens with Matthau being informed that the money he inherited years ago is all gone and now he's flat broke. He goes to his uncle, who hates him, and begs for money. The uncle agrees to give him $50,000 in a wager that he can't find a rich woman to marry in 6 weeks. If he fails Walter has to repay his uncle $5 million! Anyway, Walter finds awkward nerd (and rich) Henrietta and starts speed-courting her...but will he get her to marry him in time? And will he resist his temptation to murder her? WTF?

There are a few scenes that I halfheartedly smiled at, but I never once laughed. Mainly because Walter's character was a fucking spoiled asshole. The woman who played Henrietta (Elaine May who was very funny in Allen's SMALL TIME CROOKS) was likable, but completely unbelievable. I understand that she's a lonely dork, but what does she see in Walter's character? He's a selfish prick.

I know Ebert gave it four stars and raved about how funny it was, but I found the entire movie to be very disappointing. If I had to give it a star rating, I'd give it 1.5 out of 4 stars. Skip it. Watch THE APRIL FOOLS instead.