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J.A.A. Purves

A New Leaf (1971)

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Out of all the films I've nominated for our Top 25 films on marriage, this is probably the least well known. It's not on Netflix or Youtube. You can, however, see it for $3 on Amazon.

Walter Matthau's Harry Graham is a spoiled rich bachelor who, because of his irresponsible lifestyle, runs out of money. He has no life skills. He is good for nothing and has no way of making any money on his own, so he decides to save himself by finding a rich heiress to marry. After a few bad near misses, he finally runs across Elaine May's Henrietta. The relationship and interaction between these two is a joy to behold. He's selfishly using her to get what he wants. She's awkward, oblivious and worshipful. You wouldn't expect that to be a good relationship. But the joy is in what they suddenly both start bringing out in each other. She slowly starts becoming more assertive and self-confident. He softens, begins to act gently, and even finds that there are things (and perhaps even another person) that he cares for. This is a marriage perhaps made in hell, but somehow because it is a marriage, it begins to do unexpected things to both spouses.

This is my favorite Walter Matthau film. I strongly recommend trying to see it.

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