Trailblazer Elaine May altered the landscape of comedy and screenwriting, and in the three films she directed in the 1970s—A New Leaf (1971) , The Heartbreak Kid (1972), and Mikey and Nicky (1976)—she brought a fresh, often uncomfortable perspective to the portrayal of relationships, with a particular focus on the flawed men within them. One of just a few female directors in Hollywood at the time, she homed in on the theme of betrayal and exposed male vanity at its core. With Mikey and Nicky, she took on some of her darkest material, exposing the toxic masculinity destroying the friendship between two low-level gangsters. It’s taken some time for audiences and critics to catch up with it, but the film’s meticulously crafted script, brilliant performances, and agile camera reveal a singular cinematic vision—one that would emerge again only once, eleven years later, with Ishtar, another film ripe for rediscovery. Here are a few things I learned while producing our recently released edition, which showcases the film in a glorious new restoration.
Director Elaine May was only the third woman to be admitted to the Directors Guild of America. Three decades earlier, in the 1930s, Dorothy Arzner was inducted as the DGA’s first female director; Ida Lupino followed, but not until the fifties.
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