H is for Harold and Maude

“I should like to change into a sunflower most of all. They’re so tall and simple.”

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This is a movie I’ve had in my collection for a very long time but for some reason I just never managed to open the cellophane and give it a whirl. Now, I’m asking myself “why did I wait so long?”

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Harold is a teenage boy on the verge of manhood, who has a strange obsession with death. He spends most of his spare time tormenting his mother with his highly entertaining and sometimes over elaborate fake suicide attempts. His seemingly meaningless morbid existence is turned around when he meets Maude, sixty years his elder but the only person who he ever truly connects with. Throughout their friendship, Maude simplifies life and all it’s complexities and in her own unique way she opens Harold’s eyes to the beauty of “living in the moment”. ¬†While Harold never really transforms so to speak, it’s obvious straight away that Maude immediately leaves an ever-present mark on him.¬†Maude is an anarchic eccentric whose lust for life has only grown with age. She’s a death camp survivor who simply lives life as she pleases and enjoys every minute along the way. Among her many hobbies is nude modelling and obscure avid collecting. She even gives the cops a run for their money. What’s not to like?

In the meantime Harold’s snobbish mother frantically tries to set him up with “Miss Perfect” and on various occasions she fails miserably. To her disgust Harold has eyes for only one woman, Maude. As their friendship blossoms into something more complicated (and perhaps a little creepy to some) he proposes. But with every love story comes a damning revelation. Maude, who reciprocates Harold’s love for her, has no plan to live passed her 80th birthday. The final few scenes between the two are very moving and funnily enough I think something got stuck in my eye around this time (cough cough).

For me, the movie has the perfect blend of dark humour and drama and there’s a touch of subtext to be taken from it too. Ruth Gordon plays Maude with perfect precision. She’s the Grandma all girls want to grow up to be. Bud Cort’s deadpan delivery and general Tim Burtonesque portrayal of Harold is a hoot. His quest throughout the movie is to die but in the end he would do anything just to live with the woman he loves. It’s tragic really.

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There were lots of laugh out moments which I wasn’t expecting prior to watching. The opening scene is one of the most memorable that I’ve witnessed in years and Cat Stevens soundtrack is beautiful throughout and tends to pick up the vibe a little during the more dour moments, reminding the viewer that while there is sadness there is also a more optimistic lesson to be learned. While it definitely remains very much a movie of the 70’s I think there could be an argument that the love story is timeless and transcends all generations. The thing that really stole my heart was my belief that these two oddballs really could have this type of relationship. I actually wanted them to live happily ever after together, and in many ways they do.

8/10

Gavin Logan – Follow me on Twitter

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