Vintage Leisure has long been the home of the deep cuts. Lately, it has also been the gathering place for those of us enchanted by 1973’s Breezy. I’m happy to provide regular and evolving insight into this delightful film directed by Clint Eastwood at the outset of his directorial career. But truth be told, I couldn’t not share more about this film. I watched the movie over a dozen times in the weeks following my first viewing and so many thoughts and feelings were swirling in my head constantly. They needed a place to light.
Let us not forget as we continue our analysis of this remarkable story that much of what we are celebrating is the work of Joyce Heims. “Jo” had been a model and a dancer before heading for the coast to work in pictures. She held administrative jobs on films while she wrote and sold scripts on the side. Finally, as I have reported, Jo met Clint and the two worked together on Play Misty for Me, Breezy and Dirty Harry. Heims was also a co-producer on our film which enabled her to “coordinate some of its creative elements”. I will be forever indebted to Ms. Heims for this poignant movie and for working with her director to maintain the appropriate tenor of the story.
The other architect of this film is of course our director, Clint Eastwood. I am still trying to reconcile this gentle romantic drama with the other films in his oeuvre. The obvious conclusion is that Eastwood has an incredible sensitivity about him and he is able to call upon it when he is so inspired and to shepherd actors through even the quietest of stories. He would not direct another romantic film until 1995’s The Bridges of Madison County. Having directed Breezy, Clint has been elevated into position as one of my all-time favourite filmmakers.
I didn’t feel I could go on with my life until I had released and let fly some additional thoughts on the film and the character of Breezy and on the way she looks at life. I’ve titled this article “Final Analysis” but I could talk about this film forever. I could easily change this website to “all Breezy, all the time” or start another site dedicated to the movie. I could start social media accounts and groups and on and on and on. But I’m trying to restrain myself and dial in on the aspects of the tale that have affected me the most. I do, however, reserve the right to return to Breezy whenever I’m compelled to.
I love the above quote. It suggests that situations in and of themselves are neither bad nor good; it all depends on how you perceive them. This relates to a major theme in Breezy. The free-spirited title character has learned to see things in a positive light while wizened Frank takes the cynical view of things. He is convinced that some things are simply bad and tells Breezy so – but she will not be swayed.
Breezy has no hang-ups about sex and we can assume that she adheres to the notion of free love that had risen up in the half-dozen years previous to our film. To her, sleeping with Bruno is not only acceptable but perhaps enjoyable payment for a bed for the night. Frank’s perspective on this, though, is similar to mine; Bruno is a “creep” who “over-charged” Breezy for the accommodations. Breezy looks at it differently and maintains that Bruno is a “nice guy”.
And so, for that matter, is Frank. When Frank allows Breezy to use his shower, this gives her another opportunity to tell Frank that, while he tries to hide it, he is, in fact, a good person. But he makes a crack about doing the board of health a favour. Breezy further tries to make her point by saying that because Frank gave her a ride down the hill that morning, he is a good guy in her book. Interesting that Frank doesn’t accept this, either. Instead he chooses the cutting remark that he simply didn’t want Breezy hanging around his house all day.
There are two significant examples of how these two look at the world differently. When Frank and Breezy sit down at the restaurant to eat, Frank takes it upon himself to teach poor, young Breezy a life lesson. He says that Breezy has a talent for finding good in anything – and he says it like it is a dangerous way to live. He tells her that “there are things that are all bad and there are people that are genuinely rotten. Unless you accept that, you can’t protect yourself from it…from reality.” Frank is trying to tell her that reality is something you need protection from. But our girl turns this on its head.
Breezy asks him about the delightful day they’ve just had, a day that she has already declared the best day of her life. She wisely says that this wonderful day is reality, too. Frank’s perspective is that reality is dangerous. Breezy is still revelling in joy and proclaiming the beauty of her reality, the one she shares with Frank. Reality in and of itself is not to be feared, it is not dangerous. It all comes down to how you perceive it. The teenager is fixing our boy, Frankie. In this scene, she is rescuing him.
The second example concerns poor, old Bob Henderson. Bob is in a bad place. Every conversation he has with Frank is about the same thing; he is tired of his wife, the spark is gone. He is in worse shape than Frank ever was. Bob dishonours his wife every day and dreams of finding a mistress. Bob has regressed; all he wants is sex with someone exciting – something that is likely far out of his reach.
After he has seen Frank with Breezy, he is jealous. Not in a spiteful, resentful way but he envies Frank. Bob then reduces what Frank has with Breezy by pulling it down to his level. He’d like to find the same thing. Bob says he’d love to find a sexy, young girl like the one Frank has found. Bob cannot see beyond the physical. His perception is that Frank is only in it for the sex; what else can it be is the way Bob looks at it. This makes Frank feel cheap and foolish. Frank had planned to tell Bob about the wonderful thing he had found. But now Bob has ruined it by looking at it the wrong way – in a cheap and sordid way.
After all these instances and all these examples of the different ways to look at things, Frank finally “gets it”. Breezy has finally broken through to him and he has embraced optimism somewhat and also a sense of personal freedom. This young girl has taught the veteran of life that, no, it’s not black and white. Life is not to be coloured with only one shade. There is beauty to be found in any moment, in any person, in any situation. This concept from Jo Heims elevates this script to extreme heights of class and poignancy.
Breezy: "What do you feel?" Frank: "Concern for another human being, an awareness of life, fantastic excitement when I touch you, an interest...a genuine interest in someone other than myself." Breezy: "You feel all that for me?" Frank: "Yes." Breezy: "You love me." Frank: "I didn't mention love." Breezy: "Yes, you did."
I’m always struck as I watch this film with Frank’s willingness to let Breezy into his life. It would have been easy for him to speak harshly to her and throw her out of his car or out of his home. But he doesn’t. I think it’s about timing. Breezy has arrived at just the point in his life when Frank is realizing some hard truths about himself, his attitudes and his lifestyle. Breezy is right on time; she appears just when Frank needs her.
When Breezy arrives at his home for her guitar, he rolls his eyes at her effrontery but still does not kick her out. Not only does her not kick her out, but he makes her a meal. What on earth would possess a man like Frank to do such a thing? Good question. He seems pleased when she raves about his shower and then lets her use it. After levelling some harsh words at her, he lights a fire in the fireplace. Earlier, he said he hadn’t seen the need for a fire but now it’s in full blaze as if he wants to please her. But it’s too late. She’s miffed and she leaves.
When the cops bring her back to Frank’s door just before dawn, he claims her as his niece – and takes some undeserved chastising from the police. Or is it undeserving? Remember, he also took heat for (not) hitting the dog with his car. Again, he allows her into his home. And when she asks to be taken to the beach, he agrees. I’ve wondered when she came up with this idea. She asked him because she knew he would take her – just like she knew he would come down to juvenile hall to get her. Slowly, gradually, Breezy is helping Frank reclaim his humanity. She tells him he is a good man, something he needs to hear at a time when he doesn’t feel like one but instead feels broken and destined for a life of no fulfillment and much sorrow.
Frank’s readiness to accept Breezy as a new part of his life is best seen in what is perhaps my favourite scene in the film. Breezy is waiting on the doorstep when Frank comes home one night. He says he has to go out tonight but he opens the door and follows her in. Shirtless, Frank shaves at the sink in his bathroom while Breezy reads the paper to him. Think about how much he really knows about this girl at this point and here they are, so familiar with each other. So cute that Breezy reads the personals and they both make jokes about contacting the people in the ads for hook-ups. Breezy doesn’t like it when Frank asks for a phone number to be repeated.
When Frank says he cannot change his plans and stay home, Breezy says that he might as well give her another lift down the hill when he goes. The whole movie pivots when he quietly says to her “you don’t have to leave”. She smiles pleasantly – not as one who has scored a place to stay, but more like one who has achieved a breakthrough of sorts with someone she is fond of. It is enchanting. Breezy cheerfully makes plans for Frank’s return and he smiles brightly as he leaves.
Frank returns late and the house is dark. The fire Breezy said she would light has burned down. The pot with the coffee she said she would have waiting has gone cold. The guest bed is empty. But Breezy has not left.
The final scene at Plummer Park makes for a rapturous finale that pleases me to no end. Frank walks with the dog, Sir Love-a-Lot. Incidentally, the dog is played by real-life dog Earle. Truth be told, Earl is not the handsomest animal and lacks charisma but he has played a part in this story. The first signs of Frank’s transformation are seen when he picks the injured dog up off the ground and takes him to the vet (played by Holden’s son, Scott). When he surprises Breezy by revealing that the dog is alive, well and hers to keep, a very significant thing has happened and it marks a major turning point for Breezy. Think about it; last thing she knew, the dog was “dead”. Now, Frank makes her a gift of him. Very symbolic.
Look at Breezy as the final scene begins. Notice that while there are people around her, she interacts with no one. She stands by herself staring at a leaf – bringing to mind the lyrics of “Breezy’s Song”; “I read the lessons in the leaves…”. She is obviously not herself. The dog unites these two again. She smiles when she sees a dog approach but then starts when she recognizes him as Sir Love-a-Lot. She greets him with the little voice she does and then it occurs to her that Frank must be nearby. Watch her as she walks towards him. She has no idea what his attitude will be. Perhaps he just wants rid of the dog and has brought him to her. Oh, her relief when he greets her as he does. So lovely.
Breezy is always listed as a “romantic drama”. But this film goes deeper than that. This film is not about romance – it’s about rescue. And let’s forget about the old man finding a young girl trope. Remember that she is alone, too at the start of the film. She has no family, no home. Her parents are dead. Her father is dead. She has no one. These two finding each other is at least as significant for her as it is for him. Watch them at the beach that first morning. They are both thrilled to be together. Each is thrilled to have the other. They are saving one another.
And it’s not about “mooching” in the beginning. Sure, she could use a meal and a place to stay but that is not all there is to it. Consider that she walks out on Frank THREE TIMES in the early going. When she’s sad about the dog, she runs off. After her shower and the two have words, she leaves. It’s raining and she’s homeless but she leaves. And after Frank has taken her to see the ocean, she sleeps in the guest bed but is gone when he wakes up. Now he’s disgruntled that she is gone, not that she is there. This is happening to her slowly, too and she can’t stay away for long.
Breezy is not as superficial as a common romance. The substance of the film can be found in the intense emotion it conjures in the viewer at four significant points. The viewer feels these moments as deeply as the characters do. First there is the joy of discovery when the two find each other. What a pleasure to watch it happen quickly but tenderly. Then there is the contentment of togetherness that they enjoy. Breakfast, the trip to Fisherman’s Village, playing in the park. Watch Breezy as she lays next to Frank when he talks about his divorce. When he says he can leave work early to return to her, she lays her head on his shoulder, the picture of tranquility and fulfillment. And then their moment later that day overlooking the water.
Thirdly there is the intense sorrow of loss. Frank has been poisoned by Bob and his old helplessness has returned. Breezy asks why he is throwing them away. Many readers have told me that at this point they were yelling at Frank to change his mind. And then finally there is the exultation of re-discovery. Frank hasn’t missed his chance and Breezy is relieved to see he has come to his senses. These four moments are extremely potent and lend the movie its staggering gravitas.
There is a supreme synchronicity in all of these elements – events, settings, dialogue, camera placement, characters and actors – and they coalesce to achieve a film of rare elegance, free-spirited charm, crushing honesty and tender poignancy.
I was thinking about Frank’s general suspicion and his comment; “there are things that are all bad and there are people that are genuinely rotten. Unless you accept that, you can’t protect yourself from it…from reality.”
It struck me that, in the context of just a few years before, Breezy could have very easily been Susan Atkins or one of Manson’s murderous creatures, before you knew it the whole clan could have moved in like they did with Dennis Wilson. So maybe, in a way, Frank’s sense of caution was well-founded, but at the same time, Breezy was a necessary redemption for a particular generation and lifestyle. I’ve enjoyed your commentary on this, even though it’s probably not a film I would otherwise have shown any interest in quite honestly. It’s been great to learn about it from a perspective I would not have had myself.
Yes, that was at the front of my mind, too. Hitch hikers and hippie chicks in this era? Anything could happen. Must’ve been still fresh in many minds. “Necessary redemption”, yes! Thanks for reading and commenting, my friend.
Your rave review on this movie made me seek it out, and I thank you! The subject matter notwithstanding, this was a beautiful movie with an enchanting performance by Kay Lenz. So hard to believe she never became a major movie star after this role. I mention the subject matter because I am 58 and have a 22 year-old daughter, so the age difference in the characters hit home and made me a little uncomfortable. Hard to believe Eastwood directed this, for sure, but the guy is full of surprises. Thanks for championing this movie; your taste is impeccable!
Thank you so much for your comment.
I’ll be honest; the age difference thing has never bothered me. But I’m learning to understand the issue people have with it. I just don’t like it when people dismiss the film because of it.
Your way pleases me! You were uncomfortable for good reason but gave it a chance anyways. Thanks a lot for reading and for your comment.