DVD: Breezy (1973)

December 4, 2016 | By

BreezyFilm: Very Good

Transfer:  Very Good

Extras: n/a

Label:  Universal

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  June 1, 2004

Genre:  Drama / Romance

Synopsis: A May-October romance in which a fiftysomething realtor begins an unlikely relationship with a barely twentysomething flower child.

Special Features:  (none)

 


 

Review:

In what may be one of Clint Eastwood’s oddest directorial choices, Breezy feels like an attempt to bridge the generation gap between flower children and grumpypantsters by going for extremes in this early January / early December romance in which high school graduate Breezy (Kay Lenz) falls for a presumably late forties / early fifties realtor (William Holden) in Laurel Canyon, California.

The set-up isn’t implausible – after dodging a would-be rapist, hitchhiker / free spirit / amateur guitarist Breezy finds safety in the passenger seat of less creepy Frank Hampton, and spins whatever waifish lie she can to spend the night in his warm & cozy canyon house – but the climax of the emerging romance does bring pint-sized Breezy with statuesque Frank together in a dimly lit bedroom.

Eastwood has cinematographer Frank Stanley keep the lighting low and moody, which somewhat muffles the physical extremes of the actors, and greater screen time is spent building up the tolerance of each other’s quirks, plus music montages in which the pair wander along boardwalks, beachfronts, and cliffs where the ocean crashes against the rocks – sequences that are more than reminiscent of Eastwood’s Play Misty for Me (1971).

Breezy_poster

U.S. poster campaign, emphasizing macho Clint Eastwood to counteract the hard-to-pin-done tone of this romance-drama.

The disparate age gap (Lenz was 20, while Holden was 55) is omnipresent but it’s often conveyed through Frank’s quiet inner conflict, as he simply doesn’t know where their relationship should go, let along whether it ought to progress.

Holden plays Frank as a friend than father figure, and Lenz completely sells her character’s ingénue design and flakiness by never being too flighty nor operatically dramatic; even when buckets of tears flow, her reactions are played out to show the pair’s emotional disparity rather than portray Breezy as a needy brat.

Frank’s always in a state of flux that’s brought on by increasingly awkward encounters with contemporaries, such as the close friends who see him with Breezy one night at the movies (where the pair catch Eastwood’s just-released High Plains Drifter); envious tennis buddy Bob Henderson (oily Roger Carmel); ex-girlfriend Betty Tobin (Marj Dusay) who tells him point blank she waited for him until a nicer guy and marriage proved too rewarding; and Paula (Joan Hotchkis), an obvious caricature of a vile, money-grubbing ex-wife who exists purely to bleed Frank dry financially and emotionally.

Breezy_poster_Ital

Alternate European poster that’s more impressionistic and more successful than the U.S. campaign.

Jo Heims’ script is also much smarter than expected, using Frank’s friendships, former loves, and professional associations as stressors that push him into various states of doubt. When he does gain confidence to give a relationship with Breezy a try, it’s almost killed by an icy chat in a sauna with Bob, who drops the term “child molester” in a half-jokey rumination. (That scene also has an unintentional parallel with Neil LaBute’s unsettling 1998 film Your Friends and Neighbours, in which the male buddies sweltering in a sauna quietly feel nauseous as creepy Cary gloats about his attraction to younger fodder.)

END SPOILER

 

Heims and Eastwood ostensibly built a story about a central character filled with ongoing uncertainty with his life, and his inability to commit to a full Yes or No does provides some mystery to the film’s finale. To some extent, it’s unexpected: Frank heads to a park and watches Breezy interact with her contemporary friends, and using a dog they shared as a trigger, lures her to a tree where he blurts “I don’t know… If we’re lucky, we might last a year,” after which they walk off as a couple.

On the other hand, it’s the best kind of agreement he can make. He led Betty on for too long before he broke their relationship by remaining indifferent and wholly non-committal; and in the break-up argument with Breezy, his genuinely earnest explanation isn’t profane or involve tossing objects around, but shouting point blank “I cannot cope with any of it,” so it’s consistent to Frank’s sense of variable hope: partial, tinged with cynicism, but not exactly cruel.

 

END OF SPOILER ALERT

Heims may keep Frank in a state of puzzlement and confusion, but he’s never condescending to his young partner, and Breezy often takes analytical pokes at Frank’s unspoken concerns by sounding neither brainy, pretentious, or utterly daft.

Breezy has obvious sentimentality and cutesiness; the very nickname ‘Breezy’ screams flower piglet and airhead; and composer Michel Legrand frequently restarts his main theme to trace the progression of Breezy’s infiltration into the life of a grumpy man who focuses more on closing deals and commissions than having any serious relationship. (A kind of orchestral-folk hybrid, the score is anchored to a theme song propelled by airy lyrics penned by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, and the vocal rendition featuring breathy Shelby Flint returns in a central music montage, and the End Credits.)

The film’s overall production values are first-rate yet modest, and it’s a drama that’s tightly cast with film and many character actors from TV (Star Trek fans will remember Carmel as the white slave / chauvinist pig in the episode  “I, Mudd”), and features gorgeous locations, but in terms of interior design, the mid-scale homes sold by Frank ain’t pretty, and his own house is wall-to-wall seventies wood paneling screaming for a gut-job and remodeling.

Released as a bare bones DVD in 2004 by Universal with a hideously airbrushed cover, Blu-rays reportedly exist in Europe, and it’s a pity this odd directorial stepping stone wasn’t given even an afterthought making-of featurette with some words by Lenz, a fine actress who achieved a career high playing tough prosecutor Maggie Zombro in the underrated series Reasonable Doubts (1991-1993).

Amid some creative disappointments, Holden would deliver a few solid performances in Network (1976), the odd and underrated The Earthling (1980), and his final film,  S.O.B. (1981).

Screenwriter Heims reportedly did some uncredited work on Dirty Harry (1971), but Play Misty for Me (1971) provided Eastwood with solid dramatic and thriller material for his directorial debut and a genre classic. Heims’ other handful of feature film credits include the occult thriller The Devil’s Hand (1961), the romance Tell Me in the Sunlight (1965), Elvis’ Double Trouble (1967), the teenage romantic comedy The First Time (1969), and the horror film You’ll Like My Mother (1972).

Breezy was shot between the allegorical nihilistic western High Plains Drifter (1973) and the globe-trotting mountain climbing espionage thriller The Eiger Sanction (1975), and signals an ongoing directorial pattern in which a commercial, dramatically dissonant, or large scale production is followed by a small character-based film where Eastwood would explore deeper relationships and wounded psychologies.

 

 

© 2016 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB  —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography
 
Vendor Search Links:
Amazon.ca —  Amazon.com —  Amazon.co.uk

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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