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Breezy
(1973)
 

Director: Clint Eastwood                     
Cast:
William Holden, Kay Lenz, Roger C. Carmel


It's a mystery when you think about it. Here is a movie starring a very talented actor who won an Academy Award in his past, and was directed by an actor/director who wasn't just popular then, but also today. And this same person has mentioned in interviews that it is the favorite of all of the movies he's done. Yet this movie has never been available on DVD or VHS (with the  exception of a short period as an exclusive video at Critic's Choice), and very rarely gets an airing on television(*). In fact, from its completion, Breezy has always had a tough time finding an audience - it was a box office flop in 1973 (Eastwood has said the R rating unfairly slapped on it was possibly the biggest factor in its financial failure), and it received mixed reviews from the critics. Seen today, the movie does have a few problems, some it didn't originally have, but overall it's a pretty good movie. A little cornball, a little contrived, but it's sweet and pleasant to watch.

The title comes from the nickname of Lenz's character, a young adult orphan who has drifted from the east to California, surviving by working a number of odd jobs and shacking up with a number of hippie friends she has made. Hitchhiking one day, she finds she has been picked up by a lecherous creep who drives her to a remote area and, in an unsubtle way, makes it clear what he wants. Escaping, Breezy finds herself stranded miles from any populated area, with the only seemingly avenue of exit being by foot.

She stumbles upon one house up there on this remote hill, which is owned by Frank (Holden), a divorced real estate agent in his 50s who is about to go to work for the day. Shy and soft spoken, he is completely helpless to resist when this strangely dressed and talkative girl comes out of nowhere and invites herself into his car, leading to a very funny sequence where she decides to have a "conversation" with him as he drives, though has about 95% of the dialogue. Actually, their encounter soon ends unhappily over their finding of an injured dog lying on the side of the road, and Breezy runs away. She comes back later that night to pick up her guitar, and then over the course of the next few days Frank finds Breezy ending up at his house for one reason or another, and each instance the time and the quality of that time has improved. Breezy makes it clear to Frank that she has fallen in love with him, but Frank is torn - he feels something for her, but he is not sure if it is love, and besides, he fears of being considered something of a dirty old man by not just his friends, but society.

William Holden gives one of his best performances in this movie. A great example of his acting can be observed in his first scene, where his character is saying good-bye to a high society lady after having a one night stand with her. The way it is written script simply has the character promising to call the woman again while escorting her to the taxi that is waiting for her. But Holden uses his manner of speaking, as well as his body language, to show what his character is like deep down, and what he is thinking. In just a few seconds, we know a lot about his character; we figure out that he is polite, shy, and deep down desiring close human contact despite something in him preventing him from making such a tie. Holden's character may be limited in his dialogue here and elsewhere in the movie, but not only does he make each word count, we know what he's thinking and feeling when he's silent - this is top notch acting. The only flaw in his otherwise perfect performance is when (during the beach scene) his character has a sudden leap in his viewpoint, though it's the screenplay's dictation that's mainly to blame here.

As Breezy, Kay Lenz depends not just more on dialogue for her character, but on making what she has to say believable. Though her character talks so much as to be annoying at times, Lenz is able to handle all of her dialogue in the quieter moments with just the right tone as to convince us that, though young, is extremely mature. When she says something such as, "I don't understand why people make such a big fuss about age. It just proves you've been around longer than I have," I could believe from her performance that other young women in real life could feel the same way as she.

The conversations between these completely different characters reveals a shared rarity in movies - intelligence. In another screenplay, some obvious questions about such a relationship may never be brought up. Not only are they brought up here (mostly by Frank), but the screenplay goes to the trouble for providing answers. It's true that there might be another viewpoint aside from these answers provided, but the way these answers are brought up seem so logical in their presentation, you believe them. Near the end of the movie, there is a wonderful monologue by a character that not only sums up the movie's viewpoint of May-December romances, but can be used to answer all of those previous questions. As well, the intelligence of the characters goes to what is not said. When Frank comes home after seeing a friend (who told him that he'd feel like a child molester in such a relationship), his behavior to Breezy is instantly very different. Even without an explanation, Breezy is intelligent enough to study his behavior and quickly figure out why he is acting so differently.

This movie was a big leap for tough guy Clint Eastwood - he hadn't done anything like this before, and we'd have to wait until The Bridges Of Madison County before he'd do another romance. It's clear that he put a lot of thought into this movie's direction, because the tone is so unlike many of his other movies. Each scene with one or both of the two characters is done with as few other people in the scene as possible. Many times there's no one else around for miles, and many times I couldn't help but feel I was an unseen observer spying on a personal conversation. It made what I was seeing more real to me. Another thing that made everything more realistic was the almost total absence of a musical score. With there being nothing to distract us, we are totally focused on these characters, and that's why I think I really got interested and involved with what they were doing.

The direction isn't perfect. Having Holden occasionally speak some of the youthful slang of the era (example: "All the things I dug about her...") is jarring to hear from an older gentleman, and some lines from other characters like, "Hey man, got any bread?" date the movie as well. Needless to say, the looks at the era's hippie culture also come across as a bit goofy as well, and a bizarre gag about Breezy and Frank going to see the movie High Plains Drifter seems way out of place in any era. However, much of this can be swallowed if you are willing to accept such material as a reflection of the times. Most importantly, none of this harms the heart of the movie - a candid look at an unusual romance - and the movie is very agreeable to watch despite any shortcomings.

* UPDATE - Universal Home Video announced a DVD release for June 1, 2004! Click below to order a copy

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Check Amazon for "Clint Eastwood: A Biography"

See also: Cheyenne Warrior, Chino, High School Hellcats

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