Staff Picks – Matt Dy: HAROLD AND MAUDE
Yesterday, Patrick brought us his take on THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN. Today, Screenplay Department Director Matt Dy brings us back to the pro-love side of the spectrum with his favorite movie for Valentine’s Day, HAROLD AND MAUDE.
Considered a flop in the 70’s, HAROLD AND MAUDE has found renewed adoration since its initial release and now sits at #69 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Love Stories of All Time. However, I didn’t know the film existed until I first saw THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY and Cameron Diaz’s titular character cited it as her favorite film. Leave it to the Farrelly Brothers to introduce me to one of the most unconventional and classic love stories ever.
Written by Collin Higgins and directed by Hal Ashby, the film is a darkly comedic yet romantic portrayal of Harold, a young man obsessed with death and suicide, and Maude, an elderly woman he meets at a random funeral they both attended just for fun. While the setup doesn’t quite seem like the makings of a sweeping Nicholas Sparks romance, the beauty of their love comes from its unconventional and unconditional nature. I researched that more intimate scenes between the two were cut because the studio was afraid they would scare away audiences. Instead, their love is displayed through several sweet moments. The best scene is when Harold gives Maude a souvenir coin that says “Harold Loves Maude” as they sit on the edge of a cliff. She immediately tosses it into the water and states her reason for doing so: “So I’ll always know where it is.”
Harold is an odd fellow who is introduced to us as a young man who goes to extreme lengths to shock his routinely unsurprised mother by staging elaborate suicide attempts including hanging by a noose, drowning as she swims laps around him, and splaying fake blood all over himself. He even stages these suicides for dates that his mother sets him up for through a computer dating service (they had that even back then?). Maude is just as eccentric. At 79 years young, she lives out of a railroad car, enjoys being painted in the nude, has a mission to uproot city trees and return them to nature, and has a penchant for stealing cars. Together, they have the indomitable spirit of two people against the world.
There is an unspoken moment in the film that I won’t give away, but it adds a poignancy that shifts your (and Harold’s) understanding of Maude. Whether or not you’re in the mood for a May/December romance this Valentine’s Day, HAROLD AND MAUDE is hard not to love. Even in its old age, the film still holds up well… just like Maude.
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