Harold and Maude (1971)    1 Stars

“They will defy everything you’ve ever seen or heard about screen lovers!”

Harold and Maude (1971)
Harold and Maude (1971)


Director: Hal Ashby

Cast: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles

Synopsis: Young, rich, and obsessed with death, Harold finds himself changed forever when he meets lively septuagenarian Maude at a funeral.




I’m not entirely sure why Harold and Maude is (and was) so highly regarded.  It’s certainly a unique piece of work, but once you get past the novelty of a 79-year-old woman having a relationship that eventually turns sexual with a psychologically disturbed 19-year-old boy, this story is something of an old chestnut.  After all, it’s really just another tale of a repressed male who has his life turned around by a free-spirited female.

Bud Cort (MASH) and Ruth Gordon are surprisingly believable as the film’s eponymous odd couple. Cort, looking about thirteen-years-old much of the time, has no trouble portraying a disturbed mind even when he’s simply looking at another actor deliver their lines.  Although the film’s humour is extremely dark, it’s careful to ensure Harold’s problems can only ever be perceived as a humorous vehicle to enhance the life-affirming transformation he undergoes thanks to Maude.  Gordon is wonderful as Maude, looking years younger than both her character’s age and her own real age (about 75 when the film was shot).

The film might make uncomfortable viewing for some.   it also hasn’t aged particularly well, and future years probably won’t be any kinder to it.  The story doesn’t really work because we never feel particularly close to the characters or their feelings, and because for most of the film they seem to live in some kind of cocoon, unseen by the rest of the world.

(Reviewed 6th March 2012)

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