Post-flower power features centre themselves on reluctance, free will and that ever tetchy feeling that life has passed them by. Their great opportunity for adventure, risk and love has ended. A door has closed, and another has not opened. A rut in time, Breezy finds itself with the big-hearted titular character, played by Kay Lenz, with little to do or say. That freewheeling power of running away from home into the great beyond, it is lost on Breezy. Her surroundings are damp, grimy and dire, but there is love and freedom to be found. Is free and fast enclosure really worth the sanitary sacrifice she gives here? Clint Eastwood directs this hippie-style feature without much joy.
Who can blame him? There is little joy to be had in that era of flower power and free-loving. Joan Didion put it best. All the issues confided in one another, the layabout style and the good times rolling on were not meant to last. “The centre was not holding,” she infamously wrote in her Slouching Towards Bethlehem essay. That much was true. As the opening credits roll and this love-happy hippie wanders the streets with her guitar, the stereotype is crafted and infused with this prevalent idea of inexperience being the harbinger of a good time. Play it by ear. Live life on the road and hitchhike your way to better days. If only it were so easy.
Eastwood certainly realises the futility of such a lifestyle. It is why there are shifts in tone and meaning along the way. Life is not so breezy, and at least Breezy comes to terms with that rather immediately. Stern characters that are immediately untrustworthy, picking up hitchhikers and making eerie, sinister conversation out of the generalities and niceties of the average man in the street. Eastwood manages to take Breezy and allows his audience to care for their journey almost immediately. It is the danger she is placed in above anything else that we are concerned about. A big heart should not be a guiding force, yet those that possess such a wholesomeness are destined for our sentimentalities with little effort whatsoever. Musical cues of heightened, tightly strung violins do little to appease those ideas, but it is without those that Eastwood is more in tune with his character.
Breezy is by no means a perfect film. William Holden appears in a stringent capacity, and much of the feature relies on the lack of life lessons that the eponymous lead learns. Her encounter with a hitchhiker, and a bad one at that, leads to a daring escape, and an immediate return to the actions that led her to danger in the first place. There is an appreciation for the trustworthiness Breezy has for individuals, but it is up to Eastwood to confer those moments with something that actually teaches the character (and the audience by extension) something about themselves or the world around them. All Breezy can say is that the world is a damned and dangerous place, but to live in fear is to live in shame. To live without it is to live without care. A balancing act ensues, and that is the brilliance Eastwood and Lenz’s pairing brings here. Balance. The centre may just hold for wholehearted heroes like Breezy.