An old, cynical man meets a young woman and is changed by her zeal for life. It is a tale as old as Silas Marner and probably much older. At least George Elliot had the good sense to make the girl a child and the relationship that of a father to his daughter. Modern turns of the story tend to make the girl a bit older and the relationship explicitly romantic or sexual. With Breezy (1973), Clint Eastwood's third film as director and his first in which he did not star, the man is Frank Harmon (William Holden), a middle-aged divorced real estate agent who lives in a large house on top of a hill overlooking Los Angeles. She is Edith Alice Breezerman, "Breezy" to her friend (Kay Lenz in her first film role), a homeless, free-spirited teenager who takes life as it comes, always looking for the good side of everything. Call her a manic pixie dream hippy.
We meet her crawling out of bed, naked except for her underpants, quietly getting dressed as to not wake the man sleeping in bed. When he does awake she thanks him for his hospitality and he asks her for her name. She tells him then smiles and leaves happy as can be. Him we meet in a similar situation. He has slept with a woman and we watch them dress for the day. He says he'll call her sometime. She says he doesn't have her number. He calls a cab and watches her leave, throwing away the paper she wrote the number down on.
Breezy hitches a ride from an old man. He muses about how the last girl he picked up would do anything for a few bucks, and he does mean anything. She doesn't take the bait so then he tells her about another girl he picked up who was a total bore and he had to kick her to a curb. When the man slows down, Breezy grabs her guitar and jumps out.
Where she lands is the driveway of Frank's house. When he comes out, she asks for a ride. He groans about it but lets her into the car. On the road, she sees a dog laying on the side of the road, hurt. She makes him stop. He grumbles, the dog appears to be dead. He says something in anger and she takes off. Later that night, she shows up at his house. She left her guitar in his car. She asks for a bite to eat. He figures she's running a scam, but makes her some eggs. He's cynical. She's an open book. She asks to take a shower, says he needs one. She undresses in front of him. He pretends not to notice and leaves, shutting the door behind him.
They form a relationship, a friendly one at first. They are companions. She is kind, warm, and generous of spirit. He gives her a place to sleep and a few hot meals which is kindness in its own way. She teaches him to be more open; he protects her. For a brief moment, I hoped that's all there would be to it. It would be a nice film to see them become grand friends who teach each other about life. But this is a Hollywood film so they eventually form a romance and have sex.
It is hard not to watch a film like this in light of the #MeToo movement and not feel a little bit grossed out. He's an older man; she's a teenager (the film doesn't indicate exactly how old she is, Wikipedia says 17, but the character notes she graduated high school so 18-19, maybe. Young at any rate). He has money and authority. She has nothing. The power differential is real and the relationship now feels a bit queasy.
Eastwood handles it well. The sex scenes are brief and filmed in shadow. The camera does leer at her nakedness a bit, but not overly so. She makes all the moves. He is always a gentleman until she shows up in bed and asks him to make love to her. He clearly enjoys it but sex is never the basis of the relationship.
They go out a few times but Frank is always embarrassed. He knows the age difference is wrong. Or at least he feels the stares of others around him. A clerk calls Breezy Frank's daughter. His ex-wife makes sarcastic jokes. It nearly destroys the relationship.
Holden is great as always. He plays Frank like a man who has seen more of life than he wishes he had. He's a man that has made some money, gotten out of a difficult marriage, and never wants to settle down again. Lenz is good as Breezy. Her dialogue suffers as a bit as she tends to monologue about taking it easy and how love makes the world go around, but Lenz handles it well. Eastwood films it in his typical detached manner. It is a fine film in its way, but the age difference now feels unsettling. Obviously, it is a movie of its time. Hollywood is no stranger to May-December romances. You can find countless movies where the male actor is much older than the female love interest. But that doesn't make it feel any less gross.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Breezy with a nice looking 1080p transfer. Extras include a new audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and C. Courtney Joyner and the usual trailers.