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'A New Leaf': When Knighthood was in Flower

By Michael S. GoldbergeriBerkshires Film Critic
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I wish that I were reviewing one of the half-dozen movies certain to be made when this pox upon our house is no more. But until that glorious return to normality has us resuming all the simple joys of life we take for granted, going to the movies being among my favorites, I'll be retro-reviewing and thereby sharing with you the films that I've come to treasure over the years, most of which can probably be retrieved from one of the movie streaming services. It is my fondest hope that I've barely put a dent into this trove when they let the likes of me back into the Bijou.
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I laugh just thinking about Elaine May's "A New Leaf" (1971), starring Walter Matthau as aging upper-cruster Henry Graham who, having frittered away his inheritance, schemes to woo, marry and then murder enormously rich heiress Henrietta Lowell, played by May. But please don't think me ghoulish when I inform that this is one of my very favorite romantic comedies. Nor should you furrow a brow when I further relate that in Henry Graham I see my inner foppishness, sans any inclination toward treachery, of course. So no need to alert the authorities.
 
"I was so happy," bleats Henry to his loyal manservant, Harold, sublimely portrayed by Britisher George Rose in one of those performances that used to get overlooked by the Academy because it was in a comedy. Worried for his own position, apprising that his employer aspires to a patrician lifestyle that was dead long before he was born, Harold suggests, "Oh, take the plunge, sir … find a suitable woman and marry." 
 
And ruining it for you just a bit, but what the heck, one of my favorite, sociologically perceptive lines comes from Harold when trying to convince his employer that without marriage he'll be poor.
 
"Poor?" asks Henry.
 
"Yes," says Harold, "Poor in the only real sense of the word sir, in that you will not be rich. You will have a little after you've sold everything, but in a country where every man is what he has, he who has very little is nobody very much. There is no such thing as genteel poverty here, sir."
 
Be assured, Harold isn't suggesting the bumping off part. That's solely Henry's idea, and we never for a moment think he'll really go through with it, until, well, we get a bit worried, especially after we meet the delightfully disheveled Henrietta. A botany professor who, Minnie Pearl style, walks about with tags still attached to her clothing, smudged eyeglasses askew, she resides on one of those castle-like estates that makes you wonder, "Who lives there?" And par for the course, we learn the lovingly eggheaded scientist is being blatantly exploited by her gaggle of servants masterminded by chief bloodsucker, Mrs. Traggert, portrayed by Doris Roberts in one of the film's several, whimsical, supporting performances.
 
The thing that happens here, as it does with any film you consider among your very favorites, is that in the magical whirligig of imagination that is cinema, you presume friendship with the protagonists. You like them … maybe even love them, and it has yet to be disproven outside of the most esoteric, philosophical conjecture, that they don't feel exactly the same way about you.
 
In the intimacy one feels with a movie that speaks to your soul, to your aspirations and your value system, the accordance and understanding that you welcome into your heart is merely a variation on the same epiphany experienced when you discovered a certain author's simpatico.
 
Y'know, "Gee, I'm not alone … that's how I feel."
 
That Henry has among his prized possessions a certain model Ferrari I came to know in a tangential relationship with a Brahmin kid at college plays a small but nostalgic role in my feeling for the self-centered dandy. But there's more to it. When, after expending his fortune he excursions in the red, '67, 275 GTB for a last glimpse of his favorite places — a chichi restaurant, his haberdasher, the men's club — whimpering, "I'm poor, I'm poor," it's a testament to your big-heartedness that you feel sorry for the cad.
 
Truth be told, though he's the sort your mother would prefer you didn't play with, he's a good hang, and because you just might see a bit of yourself in Henry Graham, the magnanimity that causes you to believe he's capable of reformation is cozily subjective. For gosh sakes, gallows humor component notwithstanding, Henrietta Lowell's very life depends on that idealism.
 
You see, you'd have to be a real misanthrope not to love this sweet, innocent and untidy, latter-day Dulcinea, who doesn't for a second suspect the slightest deceit from her Don Quixote of a courtier who says he's read her monographs in the botanical journals. I mean, how can you not feel compassion following the repartee that ensues when Harold expresses happiness that Henry has found a "suitable" woman. 
 
"She is NOT suitable. She's primitive, she has no spirit, no wit, no conversation, and she has to be vacuumed every time she eats," retorts Henry.
 
"Oh, she must be very wealthy sir ..." Harold approvingly surmises.
 
All of which brings us to one of the very essences of why we love movies. While it is extremely rare in real life for that annoying harridan or that overbearing lout to change their stripes, in the dark of the theater, where hope springs eternal, it is always possible that one can turn over "A New Leaf."
 
"A New Leaf," rated G, is a Paramount Pictures release directed by Elaine May and stars Walter Matthau, Elaine May and George Rose. Running time: 102 minutes

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Know Your Risk Tolerance at Different Stages of Life

Submitted by Edward Jones

As an investor, you will always need to deal with risk of some kind. But how can you manage the risk that has been made clear by the recent volatility in the financial markets? The answer to this question may depend on where you are in life. 

Let's look at some different life stages and how you might deal with risk at each of them: 

• When you are first starting out: If you are early in your career, with perhaps four or even five decades to go until you retire, you can likely afford to invest primarily for growth, which also means you will be taking on a higher level of risk, as risk and reward are positively correlated. But, given your age, you have time to overcome the market downturns that are both inevitable and a normal part of investing. Consequently, your risk tolerance may be relatively high. Still, even at this stage, being over-aggressive can be costly. 

• When you are in the middle stages: At this time of your life, you are well along in your career, and you are probably working on at least a couple of financial goals, such as saving for retirement and possibly for your children's college education. So, you still need to be investing for growth, which means you likely will need to maintain a relatively high risk tolerance. Nonetheless, it's a good idea to have some balance in your portfolio, so you will want to consider a mix of investments that align with each of your goals. 

• When you are a few years from retirement: Now, you might have already achieved some key goals – perhaps your kids have finished college and you have paid off your mortgage. This may mean you have more money available to put away for retirement, but you still will have to think carefully about how much risk you are willing to take. Since you’re going to retire soon, you might consider rebalancing your portfolio to include some more conservative investments, whose value is less susceptible to financial market fluctuations. The reason? In just a few years, when you are retired, you will need to start taking withdrawals from your investment portfolio – essentially, you will be selling investments, so, as much as possible, you will want to avoid selling them when their price is down. Nonetheless, having a balanced and diversified portfolio doesn't fully protect against a loss. However, you can further reduce the future risk of being overly dependent on selling variable investments by devoting a certain percentage of your portfolio to cash and cash equivalents and designating this portion to be used for your daily expenses during the years immediately preceding, and possibly spilling into, your retirement. 

• When you are retired: Once you are retired, you might think you should take no risks at all. But you could spend two or three decades in retirement, so you may need some growth potential in your portfolio to stay ahead of inflation. Establishing a withdrawal rate – the amount you take out each year from your investments – that's appropriate for your lifestyle and projected longevity can reduce the risk of outliving your money. Of course, if there's an extended market downturn during any time of your retirement, you may want to lower your withdrawal rate temporarily. 

As you can see, your tolerance for risk, and your methods of dealing with it, can change over time. By being aware of this progression, you can make better-informed investment decisions.

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