Directed by: Hal Ashby
Production Company: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: 1971
Running Time: 91 minutes
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Reviewed by: Dove
Final Score: 5/5 Moons
Based on a screenplay/novel by Colin Higgins, released by Paramount Pictures and directed by Hal Ashby, it is a unique mix of dark comedy and touching romance; probably the strangest, but sweetest love story you’ll ever come across.
Harold is a young man from a wealthy background. Dissatisfied with life, his favorite activity is staging fake suicides, much to the dismay of his long-suffering mother, who wishes that he would find a wife. Harold’s other hobbies include watching demolitions and attending random funerals. Also, he drives a hearse. Death-obsessed and lonely, Harold doesn’t really have any friends…well, except for one person, maybe.
At one funeral visit, Harold meets Maude, an old woman whose hobbies are just as odd as his. Maude enjoys going to funerals too, but she also likes to steal cars and draw smiley faces on the statues in churches. Seeing something in him, she strikes up a conversation with Harold, and in short time the two have become companions of sorts. Harold shows Maude his world, and then she shows him hers.
Rescuing trees, talking about her past life and simply strolling through the daisies, Maude manages to teach Harold that while death is not a bad thing, it is important to live your life first, and to be whoever you want to be. Maude celebrates everything, finds positivity and beauty in any situation she finds herself in, and is a kind, gentle,understanding friend to a boy who is in true need of one.
Soon, this friendship deepens, and turns to love instead. They make an odd, but very sweet couple. And that’s the great thing about this story. It doesn’t matter that their relationship is unconventional or weird, because they are happy together, and trying, in their own little ways, to make the world a better place. Higgins himself was homosexual, and I think that it has sort of parallel with the LGBTQ community. Love is love, after all, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a little bit different from others, because it isn’t like you could change who you are anyway.
Both of the protagonists are interesting and sympathetic. Harold has his own reasons for why he feels the need to be dead, and is pretty confused and uncertain about life, while Maude’s past is never fully revealed, but it is hinted at. I think that Maude is the type of person Harold could eventually become. He is an incredibly talented young man, who’s a genius at constructing all sorts of gadgets. Not only that, he’s a genuinely lovely fellow. Maude gives him purpose in life, and shows him how to put to use his potential. Their relationship is really given time to develop properly, too. The pacing is very slow, but not in a boring way. It’s only 91 minutes in length, but by the end you get the feeling you’ve been with the characters for far longer.
The film also includes a wonderful soundtrack by Cat Stevens. It might not be the usual kind of thing Goths would be into, but they really capture the mood here perfectly. Stevens even wrote his song If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out especially for this movie. It really is the final ingredient to create a film that is uplifting, sincere and calming.
While it is kind of sunnier than most of the stuff reviewed here, this really is a film with a strong Goth appeal, one that many members of the subculture will be able to relate to. (Harold is kind of a proto-Goth, I guess, since I’m not sure if Goth was really a proper thing back when this was released, which was back in 1971.) The moral about individuality is pretty obvious, but there’s also the way how Maude tries to find something constructive and uplifting in such things as death. A Goth does not wallow in the negative side of life, but rather manages to create something positive out of it.
This is, without a doubt, my favorite film of all time. While it received a rating of PG 15 (though in someÂ parts of Europe it even got a rating of PG 18)Â for its references to suicide andÂ other such things, I don’t see too much of a problem with letting younger viewers watch it, and I do think it would be beneficial to children especially.Â I truly hope that after reading this review, you will give it a try. It may even make you smile.
Story: 5 Moons
Presentation: 4 Moons
Gothic Fit: 3 Moons
Final Score (not an average): 5 (out of 5) moons