Harold and Maude (1971)

"Harold and Maude" is one of the sweetest films I've ever seen. So many comedies try to incite laughter by showcasing awkward situations. I rarely find those comedies funny. Sure, a little bit of uncomfortableness can be funny at times; but don't overdo it, please.
Then there's a movie like "Harold and Maude" in which both of its protagonists are incredibly awkward people, yet we love both of them equally. The movie embraces their imperfections, showing how beautiful they can be even with their quirks.
Harold (Bud Cort) is a teenager unlike many others. He lives in wealth and his rich mother doesn't pay much attention to him. Harold amuses himself by making elaborate fake suicide attempts daily. He's either doing this to provoke his mother or to expel some unwanted emotions; but I suspect a little of both.
The movie opens with Harold walking through a room and then hanging himself. His mother walks into the room and sees him hanging by his neck—she calmly makes a telephone call and tell Harold what time dinner will be and then leaves the room.
Harold is quiet. He rarely speaks and when he does, it's a whisper.
His mother tells him that it's time for him to gain some responsibility—get married! She finds a computer generated list of several young female candidates, but Harold is not looking for that. He purposely goes against his mother's plans on several occasions; the most notable example being his car. He buys himself a hearse and fixes it up—another facet to his morbid fascination.
His mother buys him a Jaguar which he takes a blow torch to.
It's easy to hate Harold on paper, but Cort manages to make Harold a very empathetic and even scared boy whose maturity is beyond his years.
Then there's Maude (Ruth Gordon) who appears to be the opposite of Harold. Everyday is worth living for. You should experience something new at every opportunity. She's seventy-nine years old and ready for her eightieth birthday.
Harold's psychiatrist (a Freudian, clearly looking for sexual characteristics to analyze) asks Harold what he does in his spare time, what activity is unlike any others—many other pointed questions follow. Harold pauses for a while and then says "going to funerals"—it's at a funeral that he meets Maude.
He is instantly struck by this woman's forwardness: stealing cars, uprooting public trees, weird ice sculpting, and a number of other bizarre hobbies are Maude's interests.
At one point Harold makes a comment about how Maude gets along with people so easily. "Well, they're my species", she responds.
It's a movie like this that is deeper than it seems. For some it can just be a comedy, and a funny one at that. For others, it can be a bizarre love story that makes comments on life. For others still, "Harold and Maude" could be about the resilience of people.
The movie is certainly funny, usually when Harold is trying to scare off one of his mother's arranged dates. But the movie is also touching. I don't know how it did it, but "Harold and Maude" got to me.
It's a curious romance that blooms quite naturally between a boy and an elderly woman, and Hal Ashby (the director) manages to make the relationship not creepy at all.
It's easy to brush this movie off as a fluffy piece of nonsense.
Yet "Harold and Maude" is carelessly fearless. It balances between many genres so perfectly.
One of a kind and full of radiant love, "Harold and Maude" is simply beautiful.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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