By Jake “The Movie Guy” O’Bannon, Columnist
Have you ever been in the middle of watching a movie and you think to yourself, “What am I doing with my life right now?”
I had a moment like that this past week when I watched, (based on the recommendation of editor-in-chief, Brad Crofford) the 1971 cult classic “Harold and Maude.” Have you ever heard of it? I can almost guarantee that the majority of you answered “no” to that question. And if you said “yes” it’s most likely because you stumbled across it while browsing Netflix.
Directed by Hal Ashby, “Harold and Maude” tells the story of a young man around twenty one (Harold) whom, for lack of a better phrase, is tired of it all. With a mother who is trying to control every aspect of his life, especially his dating life, and an uncle who wants him to join the military, Harold finds refuge in bizarre activities such as faking his own suicide and attending funerals of people he does not even know.
At one particular funeral burial site, Harold spots an older woman (seventy-nine years old to be precise) sitting at the base of a tree eating an apple. She appears again at the next funeral Harold attends, which becomes the first place the two talk. It was at this moment when I realized the Maude was the original “Quirky Girl.” You understand what I mean by quirky girl, right? It’s all over recent cinema and television. It is Kate Winslet in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” Natalie Portman in “Garden State,” or Zooey Deschanel in every role she has ever done. This character is prominent in current pop culture, but Maude started it all in 1971.
There is a reoccurring sensation that comes from characters like these. They show people what it means to really live – they wake people up from stale lives. As with the movies mentioned above, Harold begins to learn from Maude that there is more to life than he knows. There is a point where Harold says, “I haven’t lived…I’ve died a few times.” Maude proceeds to show him just what living means.
I watched this movie with my friend Nick Chafey. At one point he said, “That was absurd.” This was pretty much my thought throughout, because the things Maude did were in fact absurd. From stealing police cars to uprooting trees on a public street, Maude did what she wanted whenever she wanted. She was not afraid of rules, because she just wanted to live.
Okay, here comes the weird part, so buckle up. Harold and Maude eventually fall in love. While watching the movie, this fully blew my mind. I’m cool with age differences, but sixty years seems a little much.
Well, I’ve been enlightened since then. I have realized that it was not Maude in physical form that Harold was falling in love with. Rather, it was life according to Maude that he was falling for. Through Maude, Harold realized that life was full of so much more than fake suicides and funeral services. Life is what we make it, and what we make it can be pretty incredible.
I never thought I would have learned such a valuable lesson from a movie with such an absurd concept. But I must admit, I am happy that Brad suggested this film to me. Thanks, Brad. And make sure you check out his review of the same movie in this week’s edition so you can learn from the true expert.
Give this movie a shot. If anything, you can hear an incredible soundtrack by Cat Stevens. And when you find yourself asking, “What am I doing with my life right now?” take a moment to really think through that answer. You might just learn something.