Directed by: Hal Ashby
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Runtime: 90 Minutes
This may very well be the strangest of romance films for the sheer idea that it involves a 16 year-old boy with suicidal tendencies, and a lively 80 year-old woman. The idea sounds to farfetched to be good entertainment right? Well, actually, the film is surprisingly poetic and entertaining because of the huge contrast it creates. Great direction, beautiful cinematography and an unforgettably amusing story, makes it worth watching.
Deadpan rich boy Harold (Bud Cort) keeps staging elaborate suicide tableaux to get the attention of his mother (Vivian Pickles), but she keeps planning his brilliant future for him instead. Obsessed with the trappings of death, Harold freaks out his blind dates, modifies his new sports car to look like a mini-hearse, and attends funerals, where he meets the spirited Maude (Ruth Gordon). An eccentric to the core, Maude lives exactly as she pleases, with avid collecting and nude modelling among her many pursuits. To the surprise of Harold’s shrink, he soon falls in love with her.
The film does not have a huge runtime and I would say it is about perfect for it. In the 90 minutes you venture into the weird romance of Harold and Maude, you just might forget for a moment the age difference and come down to the fact they are two human beings who care for one another. Romance may not be my most watched or loved genre. This film may not have captured my heart, but it captured my mind.
It just made you think about the contrast between the two souls. They both enjoy going to funerals of people they do not know. Harold is a suicidal depressed and boring teenager, close to lifeless in expression whereas Maude is an 80 year-old woman full of whimsy, energy and hope.
The first thing in the film that you see is Harold hanging himself. His mother walks in noticing this and casually reacting telling him to stop fooling around. At this point, we know nothing and wonder, “What is with this woman”. We soon learn, his staged suicide is among many, and not an unusual thing for his mother to witness.
The acting was all fine and the baby-faced actor of Harold Bud Cort, who looks very young but has the height and voice of a 20 year-old (considering Cort was 23 at the time). His character was close to lifeless, with extreme depression and a twisted mind with his attempted suicides. Ruth Gordon, who played Maude, also gave an energetically bright performance. Her character is lively as I have aid and her performance was nothing short of blooming.
The film has a very dark sense of humour that many probably will not like very much, but the balance for me was all fine. Hal Ashby’s direction was quite weak but the story followed along nicely enough.
Overall, the film has a huge problem and that is not really taking you anywhere. The romance is quite slow and the film has an overall dead feeling to it. Harold is interesting to see on screen because of how lifeless he is, but after a while, the film starts to flee too quiet and lifeless like him. Despite being poetic, thought provoking and whimsical, it does have some problems. Though the film definitely might not suit everyone, if you enjoy films that look at life in an extraordinary manner, it is really worth watching. This is a cult film of the height of the Vietnam War to be remembered.
My Rating: 8/10