Harold (Bud Cort) is very young: sometimes he looks about 12; at other times, maybe 18. He keeps pretending to commit suicide in front of his rich mother. She tries to set him up with computer dates in the hope that he will get married. Trips to his psychiatrist and his war veteran one-armed uncle fail to change him. He drives a hearse and goes to funerals for fun. There he meets Maude (Ruth Gordon), an eccentric young woman of 79 who steals cars at will and lives life to the full, without any sentimentality. They spend a lot of time together. Maude teaches Harold how to love - not only himself - but life and other people.
A great little protest movie: life-affirming, wacky, and yet with a strong but subtle political message. It's anti-war and anti-authoritarian. Maude says to a cop who stops her for speeding, "Don't get officious. You're not yourself when you're officious - that is the curse of a government job." It's anti-authoritarian in the sense that you do not have to supplicate yourself to the tyranny of convention. As the lyrics of the Cat Stevens song that accompanies the movie go: "If you want to be free, be free...If you want to be you, be you."
Nugget: you find out just why Maude lives with such zeal when they sit together between the harbour and the freeway at sunset, just before Maude talks about how glorious the sea gulls are. It's not broadsided at all, but that's what makes it all the more charming.