Monday, November 3, 2008

Monday Movie Day Reviews

Harold and Maude (1971): A cult classic, and deemed by some as "the greatest love story ever," Hal Ashby's dark comedy is bizarre, quirky, and downright weird. Harold is a wealthy isolated young man living in a mansion that looks like it's from 19th century England. For kicks, Harold stages elaborate suicides in order to shock his mother and the potential female suitors she tries to hook him up with. (The best of these involves Harold casually dousing himself in gasoline while his mother and the potential love interest have tea). Harold drives around a hearse, wears dark suits and sunglasses, and spends his free time attending the funerals of strangers--he's the emo kid before the term "emo" existed, foppish haircut and all. It is at one of these funerals that he encounters Maude, a 79-year-old woman with the vivacity of someone 1/3 of her age. A lonely widow, the feisty Maude does anything and everything to fully experience life, which generally involves stealing cars. Harold and Maude develop an unlikely connection that spawns into a bizarre romance, pitting the young nihilist with the elderly idealist. The question is, can the relationship last?

Oh, and the entire soundtrack is Cat Stevens.

I'm not sure what to do with Harold and Maude. It feels like a sillier and morbid version of The Graduate (young jaded and confused man falls for an older woman, with 60s musician--Paul Simon for The Graduate--creating the soundtrack), but directed by Wes Anderson, complete with awkwardly dry humor. But unlike Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson, which is vital but temporary in the story arc, the romance between Harold and Maude is the centerpiece of the film. Do Harold and Maude have a relational connection? Strangely, yes. Does their connection seem to work for them? On the surface, yeah. Would I ever encourage or condone a romantic relationship between a geriatric woman and an adolescent man? No way. Does the film leave one with a sense of hope? Perhaps, but a false hope at best.

Ultimately, a relationship like Harold and Maude's cannot--and I would have to say should not--last. Their relationship is transitory at best, twisted obsession at worst. Maude seems to use Harold to keep herself from being lonely, while Harold seems to believe that Maude "gets" him. (Spoiler!!! There is some hope for Harold, especially when the final date set up by Harold's mother goes unexpectedly well. Sunshine the actress joins in with Harold's suicide antics, leaving him a bit surprised as they commit hari-kari together. But nothing happens! Why not go for the cute actress who understands you instead of the freaky old lady living in a railway car?)

If you want to watch a piece of 1970s film history, or just want a good laugh at a weird movie, I'd recommend the film. It's one of the most morbid dark comedies I've ever seen, and definitely the strangest. I guess you either love it or you don't.

1 comment:

  1. Favorite movie! or at least one of them. I watched it with my english class in high school, and made victor watch it because i wanted to watch it again. I think, besides it being quirky and Harold committing fake suicide, that it is so good because it makes you wonder why as a society we view a relationship with an age gap that big to be so wrong. Whereas same-sex relationship is okay by society and accepted by people who would be personally disgusted by it, yet it is morally wrong. and I love the scene toward the end where the priest is talking to Harold about why he should not be dating Maude, but has no actual reasons, showing this point, but what he says is funny.

    -kayla crosbie