Starring: Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles
Director: Hal Ashby
Running Time: 91 mins
Harold And Maude is an American film about a young man obsessed with death and suicide who crosses paths with a lively 79 year old woman at a stranger’s funeral.
This film is fantastic. It’s a hugely clever comedy that brings together great laughs, dark humour and quirky comedy all in one, whilst also providing a surprisingly pleasant and uplifting story. With one extremely strong central performance, and a clear confidence about itself, Harold And Maude is a brilliantly entertaining watch, but one that will have you in tears laughing, and glued to the emotional side of the story.
I loved so many things about this film, but if there’s one that really sticks out in my mind, then it’s Ruth Gordon’s performance. She plays Maude, alongside Bud Cort as Harold, and she owns every single moment of screen time. Putting in an unexpectedly chirpy and energetic performance, given the film’s rather dark opening and introduction to her character, Maude becomes the idol of your affections along with Harold as the movie progresses.
Gordon is so fun to watch, always putting in great effort to make her character likeable and lively at every moment, but it’s also how she pulls off the film’s more tender emotional moments that’s so impressive too. More often than not, these are the moments when we really see the strength of the unlikely bond between Harold And Maude, and she brings a delightful and positive energy to all of those scenes, giving the film’s central relationship a wonderfully uplifting tone.
And that uplifting atmosphere is another part of this film that’s so brilliant. The first fifteen minutes of the film would have you believe that this was going to be a seriously black comedy, given all its references to death and depression. However, although some dark humour continues, the way the film manages to turn your expectations right around and become a hugely pleasant and happy watch is stunning.
There’s nothing in this film that criticises the somewhat bizarre friendship between Harold and Maude, but instead looks at it in the most positive possible light. This film has a tremendously happy soul from start to finish, and whilst it always maintains a degree of drama and dark humour to keep it on the ground, so much of Harold And Maude is like watching the most delightful, care-free childhood friendship ever.
A lot of the credit for this has to go to director Hal Ashby. It’s so hard to mix different genres of comedy in one film, but the fact that Ashby manages to do this so successfully and drastically in this film, whilst also allowing the wonderful story to have its own space and be as interesting as it can be, was hugely impressive to see, and was the key reason for why this film just works so well, even though I really didn’t expect it to.
Overall, I adored Harold And Maude. It’s got brains, and it’s got some dark humour, but what makes it so good is how it takes on such an unexpectedly positive and uplifting tone. With delightful comedy, a blissfully happy story, and a stunning central performance by Ruth Gordon, it’s a hugely entertaining and memorable adventure, and that’s why it gets an 8.4 from me.