Harold And Maude (1972)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 5/12/02
Director: Hal Ashby
Cast: Bud Cort, Ruth Gordon, Vivian Pickles

A controversial cult film about a young man named Harold (wide-eyed Bud Cort) who falls in love with an eighty year-old woman named Maude (Ruth Gordon). Harold isn't like other boys, and his snooty, manipulative mother (Vivian Pickles) doesn't help his eccentric and introverted disposition. He enjoys attempting to unnerve his mother by staging his own death, and for fun he likes to go to funerals and hang out in junkyards. He also drives a hearse, which further rattles his mother's high society sensibilities. Not knowing what to do, his mother decides it's time for Harold to get married, and she sets him up with a number of blind dates. Needless to say, these all go horribly wrong. Meanwhile, Harold meets Maude at a funeral, and attracted by her over-the-top character, they become friends. Maude is the living embodiment of anti-establishment, a wild and carefree spirit who sings and dances through life without fear of persecution. She is truly alive in a dying world, and she shows Harold how to live. Harold is fascinated and smitten by her energies and philosophies, and he eventually decides to marry her. But Maude has other plans for her eightieth birthday...

An excellently made film that is almost entirely driven by dialog and character development. Definitely not a film I would have picked out on my own. Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon give amazing and touching performances, but it's the kooky supporting characters that nearly steal the show. Apart from his hilariously clueless and overbearing mother, Harold also has to deal with his crazed uncle who's a career military man, as well as his psychotherapist and the town priest. The soundtrack by Cat Stevens enforces the free love sensibilities of the late 60's and early 70's, and the whole film has a very independent and experimental feel to it. A thoughtful film that's both refreshing and depressing.