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A Performance Analysis of the films Harold and Maude and American Beauty (1999)

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  1. While the hallmarks of a youth obsessed culture can be found almost anywhere, there is no one place that this issue has been more exploited than in film.
  2. What is perhaps most dramatic about the film is that when the relationship between Harold and Maude begins to blossom, the director does not attempt to hide the intimacy that exists between the two characters.
  3. Unfortunately, when the film was released in 1971, its overall appeal to the general public was not that great.
  4. Despite the fact that Lester does not have sex with this young girl, the film supports his escapist desires to pursue this relationship.
  5. When the movies Harold and Maude and American Beauty are compared overall, it is evident that these movies clearly depict the same issue, only from a different standpoint.
  6. Audiences need to consider these issues when they view a movie or a television program.

Over the course of the last three decades American society has taken its fondness of youth and femininity and turned it into an outright obsession. As a direct result of this obsession, women over the age of 35 have been made to feel bad about their bodies, their activity levels, the food they eat and the cars that they drive. This has lead to the proliferation of plastic surgery, male mid-life crises and the onset of a culture in which a young female is held as a pinnacle of physical perfection.While the hallmarks of a youth obsessed culture can be found almost anywhere, there is no one place that this issue has been more exploited than in film. Many films today feature older men in leading roles, with leading women are 20 to 30 years younger. Interestingly, this stereotype is one that has become a central feature in the modern cinema. For instance, one only needs to consider the public reaction to the cult classic Harold and Maude (1971) to understand how ingrained this social attitude has become. This film, which features a young leading man (20) and a much older leading lady (79), demonstrates even though Hollywood may be open-minded enough to accept older women in film, society as a whole is not as prepared to openly accepting of this situation.

[...] Lester, although badgered by his wife for his actions, is portrayed in the film as a man in search of his masculinity. After years of being married to a domineering wife, Lester now has the opportunity to explore his sexual desires and fantasies. At no point in the film is Lester chastised or belittled for his decision. Rather, the culture and environment in which Lester lives supports his decision to purse a younger woman as a means for recapturing his masculinity. [...]


[...] A Comparison of The Films As noted above, Harold and Maude focuses on the intimate relationship that develops between Harold, a 20-year-old boy consumed with depression, and a lively 70-year-old woman, who sees life as a gift. Although the relationship between the two starts out innocent at first, Harold meets Maude and a funeral, the relationship soon blossoms into a full blown romance. Harold chooses to loose his virginity with Maude, clearly a pivotal point in the young-boy's life. Even though Maude recognizes that age difference as an issue for the two, Harold is committed to his love affair, going so far as to ask Maude to marry him. [...]

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