Harold and Maude (1971)


Harold and Maude is an American romantic black comedy film directed by Hal Ashby. The story is about a rich, twenty year old named Harold, who is obsessed with death, goes to unknown peoples’ funerals, drives a hearse and reenacts different forms of suicides. At one funeral in a church he meets a ninety year old woman named Maude, who believes in living life to its fullest, but also steals cars and other things. At first Harold isn’t interested in Maude, but she keeps on trying to get Harold’s attention. He finally decides to become Maude’s friend, which eventually turns into a romantic relationship. Harold’s mother tries to get married, but his suicide reenactments scare the women off. Towards the end of the film Harold decides he wants to marry Maude, after a romantic night at her house that included wine, candles, and a dancing to Blue Danube. His mother, father and psychiatrist are against it and his mother tells him she is much too old for him and that he needs a nice lady around his age and not someone elderly.

Maude eventually gets very ill after taking an overdose of sleeping pills. On the way to the hospital in the back of the ambulance, Harold tears up, saying how much he loves her. Everyday that Maude is in the hospital, Harold visits her and the doctors, hoping that she will recover to regular self. But whether she makes it or not, I can’t tell you, because that is for you to find out.

This is a rather dark and a bit unsettling film to be rated PG and really deserves to a PG-13 rating instead, because children can beome disturbed by Harold’s suicide attempts and Maude’s illness. This film to me is almost heartwarming, because of Harold’s love for Maude, although quite unusual. The Cat Stevens music throughout the movie, fits well. Now when I hear “If You Want to Sing Out,” I’ll always think of this movie, with Cat singing it and Harold playing it on his banjo.

Although this film wasn’t critically or commerically sucessful at the time of its release, it has remained a cult classic, even being preserved in the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress and being added to The Criterion Collection. This is a love or hate type of movie, which feels like an aquired taste, with an indie vibe. Some people argue about the PG rating, the suicidal content, and/or Harold and Maude’s relationship. Many find that their relationship in this story is very inappropriate, some find it sweet and some just hate H&M all together.

To me Hal Ashby did an outstanding job bringing Collin Higgins’s book to life and having read the book before watching this movie, I found that Hal directed it almost identical to the book. Bud Cort was great in his role of Harold and Ruth Gordon was equally great in her role as Maude. Vivaian Pickles was just okay in her role as Harold’s mother. Do I love this film? Not exactly, but I didn’t really hate it either. Although, The American Film Institute put this one on their Funniest Movies of All Time list, I don’t find it that funny at all. In Fact, I think I chuckled only once watching it.

I don’t think this film is really that much of a comedy, unless you’re talking about Harold and his fake suicides, which is just disturbing, or maybe you’re talking about Maude and her car stealing, which is just wrong. This is not a movie I’d add to my collection, and if came on TV, I might watch part of it, same if it where on streaming app like Netflix. I do think this is a well acted by two main characters, and well directed film, as well as the soundtrack with Cat Stevens. Overall I think this a good movie for ages 13+. 3/5


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