From the Chicago Reader (October 1, 1995); corrected and updated in September 2012. — J.R.
Writer-director-star Elaine May’s first feature (1971). 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. Walter Matthau, cast wildly against type, plays a spoiled playboy suddenly deprived of his wealth who plots to marry and murder a wealthy, klutzy, and clueless botanist (May, playing sort of a female Jerry Lewis). May’s savage take on her characters irresistibly recalls Stroheim; she’s at once tender and corrosive (as well as narcissistic and self-hating). This is painful comedy, to be sure, but there’s a lot of soul and spirit behind it. With James Coco, George Rose, and William Redfield. (JR)