Young adult Harold Chasen, solitary and friendless by choice, is obsessed with death, this fascination manifesting itself in he staging his own fake suicides, driving a hearse and attending funerals, even of people he doesn't know, all to the chagrin of his exasperated wealthy mother with who he lives. Mrs. Chasen is determined for Harold to be "normal", including she sending him into therapy to deal with his issues and finding him a girlfriend through a computer dating service. It is at a series of funerals that Harold meets Maude, on the cusp of her eightieth birthday, she who too attends funerals of strangers. Unlike Harold, Maude is obsessed with life - her own life to be more precise - she doing whatever she wants to please herself, damned what others may think or how they may be affected. Since she can't take material possessions with her, she is more interested in experiences, with whatever material possessions she has - often "borrowed" without asking - only to further those ...Written by
Ranked #4 in Entertainment Weekly's "Top 50 Cult Films of All-Time." See more »
When Maude pulls the banjo out of a cabinet, you see the reflection of crew and lights. See more »
[after spotting Harold hanging from a noose in the living room]
I suppose you think that's very funny, Harold... Oh, dinner at eight, Harold. And do try and be a little more vivacious.
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When Cameron Diaz's character in the Farrelly brothers' 1998 comedy There's Something About Mary describes Harold And Maude as the 'greatest love story of our time', she's not far wrong. While it may not be a conventional love story by any means, it is engaging, passionate, and oddly believable. It was a very brave step to take to make a film about a young boy who falls in love with an old woman, and to tell it in such a dreamlike manner. In a society that generally accept older men falling for younger women, to reverse that trend was extremely daring, especially back in 1971.
Harold (Bud Cort) is a 20-something who feels isolated and disconnected with his life living with his rich mother who seems to only be concerned with finding her strange son a wife. Obsessed with death, he regularly stages fake suicides in front of his unresponsive and unimpressed mother. He seems doomed to life of morbidity until he meets 80-year old Maude (Ruth Gordon) who seems to share his passion of attending funerals. Maude has a completely different outlook on life, and indulges in her passions for art and culture, and 'making the most of her time on Earth'. The two become equally infatuated with each other, as Maude shows Harold the delights of life, and begins to teach him how to play the banjo. As Harold falls deeply in love with Maude, his mother persists with quest to find Harold a wife, and after one fake suicide too many, she decides to send him into the military.
This is the kind of nihilistic and existential that could have only be produced in the 70's, amidst the madness and folly of the Vietnam war. Harold is a child of this generation, and seems to embody the anger, loss and early loss of innocence that the children of this generation felt. Harold is born into a life lacking in meaning and direction, while Maude has lived a life full of purpose, and having been a prisoner in Auschwitz (in a moving blink-or-you'll-miss-it revelation) has endured the hardships and extremities of life. Harold, with his persistent fake suicides, seems to long for this.
All this sounds extremely heavy, but the film explores these themes with a feisty sense of humour, and an air of quirkiness found commonly these days in the films of Wes Anderson. The black comedy seems way ahead of its time. In one scene, Harold finds another potential wife at his home chatting to his mother. He greets the young lady with a very mature and pleasant manner, only to excuse himself and walk outside carrying a jug of petrol. As his mother and the young lady exchange pleasantries, Harold can be scene in the background through the window dousing himself in petrol and then seemingly set himself on wife. The young girl screams in horror as Harold's mother sits embarrassed, only for Harold to appear next to her as if nothing happened.
The relationship between Harold and Maude would probably be uncomfortable and strange in another director's hands, but with a fantastic script by Colin Higgins and a heartfelt soundtrack by Cat Stevens, the whole things is moving, profound and sweet. The film conjured up so many emotions in me as the credits rolled after the poignant final scene. Harold And Maude is in equal measures touching, intelligent, insightful, beautiful and extremely vicious.
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