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In praise of HAROLD AND MAUDE

You know the worst thing about the movie THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY? Not the semen hair gel gag, or the clogged toilet, or the zipper in the ball sac. Nope, it’s when Cameron Diaz’s character Mary declares that the movie HAROLD AND MAUDE (released this week for the first time on Blu-Ray) is the “greatest love story of our time.” We happen to think she’s right, but all of a sudden it became a bit trite to celebrate this 1971 love story about a 79-year-old free spirited woman and a 20-year-old guy who likes to fake his own suicide to freak out his mom.

Fortunately, we happen to think that people will be talking about MAUDE long after MARY is no more than a vague fragment of a memory about Cameron’s sticky hair do. And, trite or no, we will continue to rhapsodize about this extreme May-December love story. Because, as Maura Kelly notes in a great Atlantic article: “It’s hard to find a subsequent film that depicts an older person, particularly an older woman, with so much dignity and tenderness — as someone comfortable with her age, who is sexually active and quite attractive. That’s dismaying because seniors who age naturally can be babes, as Gordon makes clear, and they do have sexual needs and lives; to omit their reality is to omit part of the human experience.”

And because nobody wants to make those kinds of films, nobody in Hollywood is willing to look like that kind of woman anymore — gorgeous and wrinkled, sexy not despite her age but because of it. Sorry, Betty White just doesn’t cut it — sure, she’s funny and outrageous and not afraid to talk about sex. But it’s pretty much just one big joke. Sure, HAROLD AND MAUDE is a hilarious black comedy, but we weren’t laughing at the idea of Maude in bed. When Harold sticks his head in that sculpture? Totally hot! And when he blows bubbles in bed in a post-coital delirium? We swooned.

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photo via flickr