Monday, July 11, 2016

Breezy

1973's BREEZY might've easily been forgotten, left to languish in video limbo were it not for the fact that its director was Clint Eastwood.  Amidst the Dirty Harry and Western vehicles for which he was known, it must've seemed at the time a curious move. Clint's directorial debut was 1971's PLAY MISTY FOR ME, which you might call a psychological thriller, so it was clear that he wanted to branch out a bit.   Unfortunately, BREEZY is an often sappy romantic trifle, with sporadic embarrassing moments and a laugh out loud theme song by Alan and Marilyn Bergman that is in that great tradition of '70s cheese.  But, for all of the predictable elements that come with a story of a May-December romance there is a significant amount of truth, genuine emotion, and even a nugget or two of wisdom.

Frank Harmon (William Holden) is a 50ish bachelor who has settled into a comfortable existence in his Hollywood Hills nest.  His career in real estate has served him well, though 21st century viewers undoubtedly will have a good laugh when discussions of houses in Los Angeles are in the 85 K range, and balked at to boot!  Frank is divorced, content with one night stands.  He's pleasant and amiable but private, closed off.  Obviously he needs the right woman in his life to melt the ice.

Enter a cute hippie chick who calls herself "Breezy" (Kay Lenz). The sort of an individual you might call a "free spirit".  Frank finds her in his driveway one morning after she flees the pervert who gave her a ride.  He tells her he does not pick up hitchhikers.  She ignores him and just keeps talking.  And talking.  Before she finally gets out of the car, she'll begin to flirt but then cry when she sees a dog carcass on the side of the road.  When Frank tells her the dog's dead, she runs off.  Then Frank hears a whimper.  He picks up the pooch and takes him to a vet.  See? He's not without a heart!

Frank will meet Breezy again, of course.  She even rings his doorbell in the middle of the night. Frank is annoyed, but maybe a little intrigued.   He at first looks upon her as a child, nary batting an eyelash when she strips down in front of him to take a shower.  Gradually, he will become smitten.  Fall in love. Realize what is missing from his life.  Can Breezy wash away all those negative memories Frank harbors towards his batty ex-wife?  Or his bitterness that a former lover (his age) is about to get married?

Fact is, when they first meet, Breezy has a bit in common with Frank, what with the freedom thing and all.  Our first view of her is in the bed in which she spent the night with another hippie.  Our first view of Frank is of him making empty promises to call the lady he spent the evening with. Breezy almost immediately head over heels for the old crust.  Believes they are set for life.  Frank is willing to be swept along despite his cynicism until his worlds overlap.  His tennis buddy and other friends raise eyebrows when they meet Breezy in a movie theater lobby (to see HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, no less).  Frank begins to feel bad about the age difference, society's certain disapproval.  He wonders if their pairing isn't "just a dirty joke".

BREEZY, in at least in its storyline, does resemble many rainy day TV dramas. Jo Heims' screenplay is ridden with predictability but many scenes are effective, especially what is essentially the film's climax, when Frank's tone abruptly shifts toward his much younger lover.  Both actors play the scene beautifully, and heartbreakingly.  Credit must also go to Eastwood for his sensitive direction.

BREEZY was not a box office success.  I guess many women were just not interested in seeing Holden and Lenz getting intimate?  Found the scenario distasteful (even in the '70s)? Maybe exemplified some of the films' points?  Or perhaps there just weren't enough guys (potential target audience?) Holden's age who were willing to fork over a few bucks for the movie, or maybe their wives just wouldn't let them?

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