Young Harold (Bud Cort) lives a lonely, empty life with his aloof, distant, middle class mother, who takes it upon herself to marry him off to an acceptable girl. Harold spends his days pretending to commit suicide and attending random funerals but one day, he meets the upbeat, larger-than-life 79 year old Maude (Ruth Gordon), a free spirit who lives in a converted train carriage and has a particular fondness for “borrowing” cars and generally doing what she wants. Maude soon teaches Harold how to be happy and to truly experience life, the two of them soon developing a close, meaningful relationship.
A great Valentine’s Day film about a very special loving relationship, Harold and Maude is a wonderful film with two great performances from Burt Cort and Ruth Gordon. Cort’s deadpan delivery is engaging while never being insufferable and Gordon (who was insanely good in Rosemary’s Baby) is just so lovable and fun as the magnificent Maude. It’s lovely watching them share the screen together and their chemistry is . . . well, modern day romances can certainly learn a thing or two!
At the very start, the film seems incredibly bleak, what with the central character hanging himself and living a dismal life in an empty bourgeois existence, but the film soon turns around as soon as Ruth Gordon enters the equation and it soon becomes a wonderful, life affirming film that warms the heart and encourages plenty of genuine laughter. And in the scenes set at Harold’s house, we get to see a fair amount of dark comedy as he scares off his potential dates by seemingly setting himself on fire and cutting his hand off. So while starting off a bit grim, the film soon comes to life and we begin to laugh at Harold’s ridiculously posh mother and his clever attempts to rebel against his uptight, bourgeois peers.
The soundtrack for Harold and Maude is essentially 100% Cat Stevens and, while his songs are used a bit too much and at odd places at the beginning, his voice gives the film a definite sense of beauty and “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out” (written specifically for the film) is a warm, wonderful, toe-tapping number. The film is also beautifully shot and the cinematography is tranquil and lovely.
It’s no wonder then that in There’s Something About Mary, Cameron Diaz referred to this as “probably the greatest love story of our time”