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Growing Up in the Movies
Posted September 10, 2010 to photo album "Growing Up in the Movies"
To coincide with the release of It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Nick Dawson looks at more movies in which teenage protagonists are thrust into the world of grown-ups.
Slide 6: Harold and Maude (1971)
In the films we have looked at so far about teens in an adult world, it has always been a case of the protagonist(s) moving from childhood to maturity, however that is not the case with Harold and Maude. In Hal Ashby's 1971 cult classic – a film which bombed when it first went on release but was “reclaimed” by fans who stumbled on and fell in love with the film at campus screenings and in rep houses – our hero, Harold (the ashen-faced Bud Cort) has long since abandoned childhood. Sent away to boarding school as an adolescent, Harold was starved of love and, ironically, felt most happy when, after a fire at his school, he was reported as a fatality of the blaze. “I decided then I enjoyed being dead,” Harold says, explaining why he has faked his death numerous times since then. While Harold is a young man who represents the world of the dead, Maude, an irreverent, irrepressible 79-year-old proto-hippie, is symbolic of the world of the living. “A lot of people enjoy being dead,” Maude tells Harold. “But they are not dead really. They're just backing away from life. …Reach out! Take a chance! Get hurt maybe. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an "L." Give me an "I." Give me a "V." Give me an "E." LIVE!!!!!” Both through this rallying cry and by her infectious example, Maude helps Harold join the world of adults by getting him to embrace life, rather than death. In an appraisal of the Ashby's movie on the Film 4 website, the reviewer writes, “If on first appearance this is a hippie movie, with noses thumbed at the usual bogey figures – clergy, cops, the military (Harold has a possibly insane one-armed soldier uncle) – before long it becomes apparent the film is something else. Maude is clearly Harold's 'therapist' – and her soulful, devil-may-care regimen gradually loosens his joints and breathes life into him.”