Breezy (1973)

Synopsis:

Middle-aged Frank Harmon (William Holden, Sunset Boulevard) enjoys being alone, but after a chance encounter with a spirited teen hippie nick-named “Breezy” (Kay Lenz, White Line Fever), Harmon’s life takes an unexpected turn.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“I’ll let you in on a secret… nobody matures. They just grow tired.”

I don’t think Clint Eastwood has gotten enough credit for his versatility. Think about it: Eastwood went straight from the nasty and vicious western High Plain Drifter (1973) to the genteel Breezy without a hitch — that’s a 180-degree change if I’ve ever seen one! Breezy will surprise people only familiar with Eastwood’s gritty productions.

This is a May-December romance tenderly written by Jo Heims, who had penned Eastwood’s 1971 thriller Play Misty for Me (Heims also did uncredited work on Don Seigel’s Dirty Harry). Eastwood shows great sensitivity in the handling of this low-key romantic drama. It’s all the more impressive that Eastwood didn’t reduce the film to a tired and clichéd debate between the older and younger generations.

I tend to dismiss “old-guy-meets-young-girl” romances as a male sex fantasy (there is a sexist component to the fantasy that has always rubbed me the wrong way), but I was genuinely moved by this love story. What’s most refreshing about the movie is that neither the middle-aged man nor the teenager is trying to change the other — Breezy is essentially about how “embracing differences makes a difference.”

As I’ve said numerous times, you get to know Eastwood not by the films he starred in, but by the movies he chose to direct. Interestingly, Eastwood has gone on record as saying that Breezy is (one of) his personal favorites of his own movies. As we all know, Eastwood frequently dates younger women, so I don’t think it’s inappropriate for me to suggest that the movie reflects the legendary filmmaker’s philosophy on love.

Is Breezy an attempt to rationalize Eastwood’s love life? Maybe I’m reading too much into the film. Maybe, just, maybe. Regardless of the motivations behind the movie, Breezy is an expertly acted, well-crafted and touching movie. Leisurely paced, the film nicely establishes the different personalities of the main characters. The slow-paced narrative also allows plenty of time for the viewer to absorb the film’s core issues.

Initially, Eastwood intended to star in the movie — he is old enough to be Kay Lenz’s father — but changed his mind at the last minute. I’m glad he did because William Holden, with his beat-up matinee-idol looks, gives the role of the real estate agent a world-weariness that contrasts beautifully with Lenz’s youthful naïveté.

As for Lenz, she won the title role over Sondra Locke (it’s obvious that Eastwood didn’t forget Locke) and Joan Harris (Eastwood’s then girlfriend and his co-star in The Beguiled). It was Lenz’s first starring role, but for some reason the movie didn’t lead to better offers. After appearing in a handful of fun B-movies — I really liked her in White Line Fever and House — Lenz kind of disappeared. She and Holden make a surprisingly believable pair of lovers — it shouldn’t have worked, but it did.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Universal, the studio that financed the film, couldn’t figure out how to promote a love story directed by action star Clint Eastwood. The film was dumped in a few theaters and disappeared before you could say “Breezy.” Eastwood wasn’t amused and decided to move his Malpaso film company to Warners. Breezy isn’t as good as Eastwood’s second romantic movie, The Bridges of Madison County (1995), but I will definitely recommend it to people who enjoy love stories. Color, 106 minutes, Rated R.

12 responses to “Breezy (1973)

  1. Saw this once, decades ago, when I was trying to see all Eastwood-related films, and now remember nothing about it…and was surprised to hear that Clint almost played the male lead, which I’d never heard before. And I just watched Kay Lenz in ‘White Line Fever’, and I too wonder what ever happened to her. Thanks to your review, I’ll be tracking this one down and giving it another look!

    Liked by 1 person

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