June 26, 2017

Harold and Maude.

Review #954: Harold and Maude.

Ruth Gordon (Dame Marjorie "Maude" Chardin), Bud Cort (Harold Chasen), Vivian Pickles (Mrs. Chasen), Cyril Cusack (Glaucus), Charles Tyner (General Victor Ball), Eric Christmas (Priest), George Wood (Harold's Psychiatrist), and Ellen Geer (Sunshine Doré) Directed by Hal Ashby (#636 - Being There)

It's not every day I encounter a movie that has a cult following, especially one that is as interesting as this one. How does this movie manage to be have an irresistible edge and connection? How can something with subject matter that qualify quite well for a dark comedy have a sort of charm to it? The answer is because of how it executes itself, from a wonderful cast to how it does not skip any beats. Its chase for happiness in a world that seems to repress (represented by Pickles and Tyner) still seems relevant today; sure the movie has scenes where Cort's character stages his death and attends funerals, but there is a spirited heart at its core, where you feel for this odd but ultimately competent kind of main character. The music by Cat Stevens is quite effective, being quite nice for the mood of the film ("If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" is undeniably memorable). Gordon and Cort have a certain zest to their scenes together, being quite entertaining in their scenes; one of my favorites is when they play-fight each other when the latter is being recruited to the Army, and they have an clever "exchange" of words with each other. Pickles does a fine job as well, reacting to her on-screen son's actions with a type of un-affectionate "sensible" manner that works as a good contrast for the movie; the other actors are fine as well, with Tyner being a good standout. This isn't a cynical kind of movie, nor is it a movie struck by being overly sentimental; it's a movie that is warming in its own way beyond a warped sense of reality - whether it be Harold's reality or not.

The way that the movie came to fruition is interesting. The film was sprung from a thesis that Colin Higgins (a UCLA film student and pool cleaner) developed, and he showed the script to his landlady, who happened to be the wife of a producer in Hollywood. After forming a production company and shopping it around at studios, it eventually landed at Paramount Studios. The movie was not a success when first released but overtime the movie developed a cult following due to its offbeat appeal, with one theater (Westgate Theater) showing the movie for over two years - 1,957 showings in total. Is this a movie for everyone? No, but it certainly has a undeniable sense of humor that manages to hit more than it misses while deserving its label of being a cult classic.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

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