Harold and Maude

28 Feb

Director: Hal Ashby (1971)

Harold (Bud Cort) is one of the original dark and twisty teenagers, making those Twilight kids look they ride magical rainbow ponies to school every day. His main obsession is death and coming up with increasingly graphic and well designed suicides that might allow him escape his affluent upbringing under the watchful and concerningly unconcerned eye of his mother. Combine this with his other favourite pastimes including attending funerals and watching demolitions and it is no wonder the poor chap is having difficulty wooing ladies. Or at least ladies his own age.

Enter Maude (Ruth Gordon), mad as a box of frogs on crack, this feisty 79 year old lady picks up our Harold at a funeral and thus embarks upon a relationship that wins Harold his first friend. And helps him hit a few other milestones in the process.

Yes it is creepy, there is no denying this. See in particular the scene where Harold slow dances behind Maude, his hands skimming her polyester twin set like a pubescent teenager at a school dance. Wait a minute…

But with her vivacious and unwavering love and passion for life, it is hard not to fall for Maude and it’s easy to understand why dark and twisty Harold falls for her. But why does he have to go there. Can’t they just enjoy spending their time with one another, happy in the knowledge that she has injected him with a fresh lease of life and he has given her a beautiful memory of happiness to go out on instead of injecting her with something of his own… Perhaps I am being a tad judgemental – it is perfectly healthy for an 18 year old and a 79 year old to develop that loving feeling. But I mean – even Anna Nicole Smith had to draw a line somewhere.

But strangely, the mechanics of their more intimate relationship – or ‘co-minglings’ as Harold’s teacher so beautifully phrases – are overshadowed by what is essentially a beautiful relationship . What makes their relationship all the more poignant is the complete juxtaposition of their life philosophies – approaching the end of her life, Maude could not be more filled with energy and enthusiasm for life while Harold, young and standing at the start of an open road can think of nothing but the end, ready to die before he has even lived. What makes the film, and the ending even more heartfelt is the realisation that I will probably never find a relationship as fulfilling as Harold and Maude’s. And also, it will always make me a tad uneasy when introducing boyfriends to my grandmother…

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