Harold and Maude is the story of a young, death-obsessed man and an older, free-spirited woman becoming close.
Harold (Bud Cort) comes from a very well-to-do family and goes to elaborate lengths to stage his own death to get a rise out of people, usually his mother (Vivian Pickles), drives a hearse, and attends random funerals. At one of the funerals, he meets a plucky older woman named Maude (Ruth Gordon) who is about to turn 80 but acts like a carefree young child. The two instantly hit it off despite Harold’s love for the morbid and Maude’s love for life. While Harold’s mother continuously tries to set him up on dates (where he usually fakes his own suicide), Harold announces that he is going to marry Maude instead, who has shown him more about life than he ever imagined.
To put it bluntly, Harold and Maude is a very dark comedy but it is a comedy if you have kind of a sick sense of humor. It’s hard to describe the style of humor but it’s either very morbid and dry most of the time. Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you do find it humorous then you’ll likely be laughing throughout most of the film. For the most part, Harold and Maude is meant to be taken lightly and it does not try to bring you down, some people simply may not find the humor in suicide the film revels in.
One thing I need to point out about Harold and Maude is the terrific original soundtrack by Cat Stevens. Even if you aren’t a fan of his music, it fits the film so well. You may even recognize the songs without knowing they originated from this film. Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon have surprising chemistry too, not in a sexual manner, necessarily, the two just seem very comfortable with each other. Bud Cort’s deadpan deliveries cracked me up and Ruth Gordon just lights up the screen.
Another great release by the Criterion Collection and a marked improvement over the DVD copy we had. I am in love with the cover art, which captures the mood of Harold and Maude so well. The extras are entertaining as well, but I didn’t dive into them very much. Picture and sound are above average, as one would expect from Criterion.
If you like your comedies dark and haven’t seen Harold and Maude then I think you’ll really be in for a treat. The unusual pairing makes such a wonderful story of love and friendship and the whole thing is made doubly unusual with the staged suicides and deathly humor. There is literally no other film quite like Harold and Maude.
I give it 4 Jaguar hearses out of 5.