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DVD SAVANT

Breezy


Breezy
Universal Home Entertainment
1973 / Color / 1:85 anamorphic 16:9 / 108 min. / Street Date June 1, 2004 / 14.98
Starring William Holden, Kay Lenz, Roger C. Carmel
Cinematography Frank Stanley
Art Direction Alexander Golitzen
Film Editor Ferris Webster
Original Music Michel Legrand
Written by Jo Heims
Produced by Robert Daley, Jennings Lang
Directed by Clint Eastwood

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Breezy would almost seem to be a "you can trust me" film for Universal from budding director Clint Eastwood, a picture to prove that he can direct a standard non-action drama on a reasonable budget. His direction is smooth and there's nothing wrong with the acting either. The show is an almost embarrassing middle-aged wish fulfillment fantasy: that there's a docile hippie chick out there for every guy on the wrong side of 50. It's a laughable premise.

Synopsis:

Laurel Canyon, the Hollywood Hills. Real Estate salesman Frank Harmon (William Holden) picks up free-spirit Edith Alice Breezerman (Kay Lenz, from a bit part in American Graffiti) and grudgingly puts up with her. After return visits a budding romance forms, but becomes awkward. Frank's friends will never accept his going with a girl less than half his age. What will Frank do?

Breezy has some good acting moments but it mostly falls into the category of uncomfortable "mainstream" sex fantasy exemplified by the 1984 film Blame it on Rio. That witless comedy tries to pretend it's a sensitive story of father-daughter relations when it's really a 90-minute opportunity to ogle young girls in the context of a mild incest fantasy.

Clint Eastwood's Breezy isn't that extreme. In fact its central premise is a not un-frequent occurrence - an older guy has a relationship with a very young girl. It's just that in this antiseptic So-Cal fantasy version everything is beautiful, and the human problems never get more complicated than hurt feelings and injured puppydogs.

Jaded realtor Frank Harmon is in fine health, financially comfortable and lives alone in a Laurel Canyon dream house.  1 His friends' marriages are stale or reduced to bickering, and his long-time girlfriend (Marj Tobin) suddenly decides to marry somebody else. Business buddy Bob (Roger C. Carmel) openly states that he'd play around on the side if he thought he could get away with it. Harmon is played by William Holden, still irresistably handsome even as he starts to look craggy around the eyes. He was only 55 at the time but could pass for the early 60s.

Everything beyond those basics is a wish-fulfillment fantasy. All the particulars have been laundered to steer Frank away from the technical classification of dirty old man. Frank isn't a sex-starved pervert; with his handsome movie star looks he has no trouble picking up women but is unhappy with them. Something is missing in his soul, you see. His alcoholic ex-wife Paula (Joan Hotchkis) and he simply had to break up over some undefined mutual incompatibility. In other words, Frank has no problems except a valentine-shaped hole where his heart should be.

Into this life comes a fantasy right out of a smut magazine - it's as if Breezy was cooked up by a frustrated writer who spent his spare time fantasizing about the transient girls on the streets of Hollywood. Instead of the gutters of Selma avenue, screenwriter Jo Heims has Breezy congregating with her hippie brethren (who by 1973 were fast becoming extinct) in coffee shops and in front of the trendy country store up in Laurel Canyon. This Hollywood street angel isn't very realistic - she's not an addict or a child prostitute, she hasn't been hardened into a cautious predator or beaten into a psychological mess. She's also clean, has all of her teeth (no rough customers, I guess) and is well fed.

Breezy is less a character than a pre-cut puzzle piece to fit into Frank Harmon's unstated needs. She's polite, cute, glib, lovable and sexually more available than Barbarella. She doesn't grate like Frank's ex, and she doesn't make even the minimal demands that his girlfriend made. At one point Frank asks her why she doesn't want anything back from the men who use her (a good question) and she replies that she thought she was getting "love" in return. Ah - the perfect hippie chick, who will interpret your selfish sexual needs as her reward. 3

Besides being a bit clingy and showing up at odd hours, Breezy is amazingly house-trained. She doesn't steal, doesn't run up the phone bill and even makes up the bed (hey, I can drop my maid service, too!) In other words, Frank's new child sex toy is as convenient as his other modern household appliances.

Kay Lenz is quite good and it's a testament to Clint Eastwood's relaxed direction that her character never becomes an outright joke. She's got the kind of Haight-Ashbury commitment to free sex that exists only in hippie parodies and is the kind that names a mutt dog Love-a-lot, and is rises to rapturous ecstasy by a dawn trip to see the sun rise over the Pacific. 2 She only exists to make Frank happy, it seems, if he only would get over his middle-aged hangups and accept her. What's wrong about shacking up with a woman who might as well be a sexually-precocious 12 year old? Lolita is ancient history, man.

This must have been good news to all the sex-obsessed duffers out there convinced that the world is one big orgy that has somehow locked them out, and that there might be a sex bomb like Kay Lenz around the next corner, just itching to cater to their whims. The falseness is acerbated by Eastwood's softcore attention to nude details. Lenz is unclothed in closeup in the very first shot and constantly thereafter. There's a complete disconnect between her provocative stripping and the chivalric response she gets from Holden, as if the movie were telling frustrated bachelors how to behave with babes who (sigh) just can't seem to keep their clothes on. As I could have said in one sentence, the real appeal here is a self-serving sex fantasy.

The edges of the story has hints of darker tones; the original script may have been more realistic. Breezy's drug addict friend Marcy stays at home in tears because of a domineering boyfriend. Marcy gets only a few seconds' attention while Frank is searching for Breezy, and he isn't even curious about the girl's situation. In a perfect world, Love means never having to think about anyone but yourself. The movie ends with tacky events (the revival of an almost dead dog, a friend's accidental loss of a loved one) that conveniently steer Frank Harmon to make a romantic commitment.

Eastwood's direction looks a lot less bland than it did in 1973. It now comes across as affectation-free of and even if its concept is bogus, the characters do work up to a point. The only overt in joke is the fact that Breezy and Frank go see High Plains Drifter at the multiplex. There are a few takes of Holden where his voice turns into a controlled snarl like Pike Bishop's in The Wild Bunch. He also gets "shot" by a kid in a clothing store, a possible reference to Bishop's death scene in the same movie.


Universal's DVD of Breezy is a plain-wrap but otherwise flawless transfer of the film, enhanced for 16:9 and with bright colors and little grain. There aren't any extras. Eastwood completists, fans of Lenz and Holden and dirty old men everywhere will go for this one.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Breezy rates:
Movie: Good -
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: None
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: June 22, 2004


Footnotes:

1. Early on, Holden visits a nice house that has a sticker price of 93 thousand dollars ... boy, have times changed in the LA area.
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2. An embarrassing tale from Savant's past. Invited to a preview screening of Breezy in Westwood, the kind where the filmmaker is there and one is supposed to behave, I spoke out loud in the scene of the pre-dawn trip to the beach. "Good grief, the sun is rising in the West," I said, loud enough to make the whole audience laugh. Eastwood had shot a sunset to represent his Dawn, and the sun was indeed out over the ocean instead of behind the hills where it ought to be.
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3. I knew an co-worker once who was turning 50 and had an unrealistic idea of himself as a ladies' man, despite the fact that he hadn't had a girlfriend for years and years. His attitude was almost hostile toward women, and it was slightly embarrassing how sex-obsessed he was. When a younger friend started a relationship with a woman that he had seen first at a party, he harbored a deep resentment. There must be zillions of these guys out there, lonely, frustrated and conditioned to think that there's some adult film actress or pneumatic hippie waiting to cater to their needs; I'd guess that this is the kind of guy that keeps the porn industry afloat (well, him and curious young men). It's a shame that our society is built on images that keep huge sections of mate-less people apart - think of all the lonely women out there who would die for a meaningful partnership.
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DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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