Here's an example of one of our shorter write-ups in the book. These start with "Now Showing" information and a seventy-character "Preview" (always exactly seventy characters). Then come the essay's title and a 400-word discussion, followed by an "Added Attraction" that supplements the main movie with some extra list or further analysis.

NOW SHOWING: Breezy (November 1973)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Stars: William Holden, Kay Lenz, Roger C. Carmel

Academy Awards: None

PREVIEW: A reserved older man has a romantic relationship with an enthusiastic hippie girl.


The first movie Clint Eastwood directed that he didn't also star in, Breezy (1973) is a soft, warm divertissement that quickly blew in and out of theaters. Breezy’s most daring feature is the thirty-five-year gap between the romantic leads, William Holden, fifty-five and closer to his craggy golden-years future than his sleek golden-boy past, and Kay Lenz, a ripe, perky twenty. The ages work, however, because the twist is that she avidly seduces him.

Frank (Holden) is an upper-class Hollywood realtor whose dignified, rigid life is defined by deals, tennis, and a vindictive ex-wife. In her first major role, Lenz plays Edith Breezerman, a personable, well-endowed hippie from Intercourse, Pennsylvania. In the first scene she wakes up naked next to some guy who doesn’t even know her name, so obviously she’s a free-loving girl. Plus, she constantly mentions things she loves: fireplaces, California, “the smell of new clothes,” the dog, and “being horizontal.” Her life’s-a-picnic optimism propels the movie.

After she randomly appears on Frank’s doorstep, Breezy, who wasn’t born yesterday, steadily insinuates herself into his well-appointed home above Sunset Boulevard. Initially Frank resists her chatty attempts to get personal (She: “Do you think God is dead?” He: “I didn’t even know he was sick”). Once Frank relaxes, the relationship accelerates. She whispers “I love you” nine times, but he holds the words back, even after she undresses and tenderly invites him to build a bridge over the river Kwai. Balancing their courtship scenes are awkward moments in public that highlight their age difference, but Breezy remains unconcerned, blithely orders Shirley Temples in restaurants, and implores him to loosen up. Frank regains “that old zing,” but he never becomes a towering inferno of passion and leaves. Realizing what he’s lost, he orchestrates a reunion and finally uses the L-word in the last scene.

Holden is appealing, as always. But it’s Lenz’s movie. Without her convincing sweetness and sincere emotions, the title might have been Sleazy. To win over viewers who think the whole premise could also be called Wheezy or Queasy, Eastwood handles everything sensitively and films his scenes beautifully. Actually, a good alternative title would indicate how well the movie incorporates a network of ’70s artifacts—a wild bunch including Frank’s battleship-size Lincoln Continental, hippie crash pads, the authentic L.A. locations, Breezy’s casual fashions, the poetic folk songs—to capture the era’s zeitgeist. Truly, love is a many-splendored thing.

ADDED ATTRACTION: High Plains Eastwood

Eighty minutes into Breezy, the two leads go to a theater to see High Plains Drifter (1973), the movie Clint Eastwood directed just before Breezy (what a year 1973 was for him—he directed a movie, directed and starred in another, and starred in Magnum Force). High Plains Drifter is Eastwood’s first attempt at directing a Western, and it’s a success. He’s at his squintiest playing “the Stranger,” a solemn, fast-drawing roughneck who rides into a remote town, promptly kills three men, and rapes a woman. Intimidated by his brutality, the desperate locals, who share a sinister secret, hire him to defeat three incoming villains. He organizes everyone, renames the town Hell, symbolically paints it red, and by the light of hellish flames wreaks violent retribution. Then he literally vanishes. Supernatural elements—eerie music, dark flashbacks, a bathtub ambush where he’s seemingly unkillable, a final grave marker—suggest this drifter isn’t a man, he’s—ready?—an apparition. In a Clint Eastwood Western? Freaky-deaky!


By the way, did you catch all the titles of William Holden's movies in the Breezy essay? There are nine.


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