Clint Eastwood Directs William Holden to Hippie Love in Airy Drama.



It was two years prior when Harold met Maude.  That dark-cloud romance between a free-spirited eighty-one-year-old woman and an insular young man proved a long-running hit, perhaps promoting popular actor-recently-turned director Clint Eastwood to ask, “What if it was the other way around…?”  What if… it instead was a beautiful free-spirited young girl falling head over heels for a dejected and cantankerous old man…?

Yes, that is indeed the conventionally lopsided premise of 1973’s Breezy, Eastwood’s third film as director, and his first that he’s not featured onscreen (if you don’t count a spotlighted poster for his previous film, High Plains Drifter).  William Holden plays Frank Harmon, a curmudgeonly man with money and a cushy lifestyle courtesy of a career in real estate.  Thanks to that, presumably, he has his own impressive dwelling in the hills near Hollywood.  (Not unlike the featured house of Eastwood’s first directorial work, Play Misty for Me, we can gather that he must love big rustically ornate homes isolated on hills and teaming with one audio commentator here calls “psychological bric-a-brac”).

Frank, though, is also a bitter divorcee; lonely and rather angry.  We only learn of his existence when the young and radiant drifter who simply goes by “Breezy” (an adorable Kay Lenz) blows in on his property, looking for a quick ride into the Valley.  A quick ride, and maybe also a cup of coffee.  A cup of coffee, and some breakfast.  And you know, maybe a little bit of extra cash just to get her through the day…?  

Frank’s heard it all before and calls her on her friendly little maneuver before she even gets a chance to enact it in full. But when she is suddenly derailed by the sight of a badly wounded dog on the side of the road, going as far as to insist he stop so she can go and comfort it, something is awakened in him.  It might just be a dose of long-lost empathy.  

Breezy, an unattached and very available manic pixie dream hippie chic whose lifestyle is also clothing-optional by choice, understands Frank and is attracted to him.  She sees in Frank what no one else can or even could.  Sure, she may be a flower-power post-high school-aged dropout with only a beat-up guitar to her name, but she cultivates a connection with this sad, lonely man.  It is an emotional one before it is a sexual one.

Frankly Frank, it just shouldn’t work.  None of Breezy should fly.  But the fact that it does not only fly but flies well is perhaps just the career testament that Eastwood and screenwriter Jo Heims (also of Play Misty for Me) were looking to deliver.  In the shadow of Hal Ashby’s hit Harold and Maude, the entire premise of Breezy sounds not exactly progressive.  But then, this is Clint Eastwood- even at this phase, he had a reputation to cultivate. 

In that sense, Breezy reflects Eastwood’s considerably more mature if also intensely darker Million Dollar Baby.  Obviously, the core dynamic of the old man/young girl relationship is quite different in the later Oscar-winning film, though the skeleton of its arc remains virtually the same.  (Assertive young girl forces her way into an old man’s life initially against his will, but ultimately wins him over.  By the end, in one way or the other, he chooses to take care of her).  In this sense, we can chart Breezy’s importance in the grand scheme of Eastwood.  Heck, Hilary Swank even bears a physical resemblance to young Kay Lenz.  

The new Blu-ray edition from Kino Lorber Studio Classics touts a fine transfer, nicely displaying the film stock’s 1973 grain and feel.  It sounds great as well- even the schmaltzy title tune as sung by Shelby Flint.  We also get a terrific audio commentary track by film historians Howard S. Berger and C. Courtney Joyner, each Eastwood experts, with Joyner hailed as the one of the biggest.  Their track, while focusing rightly on Breezy, has a lot of info and opinion about Eastwood and, quite interestingly, his cultural perception as a terminally “right-wing director”.  (They also toss out the Harold and Maude comparison after I’d already arrived at the comparison for this review, doggonit).  

While not packing a punch, Breezy makes its mark.  It makes that mark almost in spite of itself, even as it is wise enough to call out and explore the age difference of the characters as the barrier that it very much would be.  There’s a well-intentioned maturity to Breezy, one that helps roll away the dark clouds… at least for a time.