Easy (1978)

The late Sam Weston, brother of popular screen comedian Jack and one of countless Hollywood personalities to shroud his Judaic background – né Samuel Weinstein – will forever be remembered as imitation Italian American adult “auteur” Anthony Spinelli. Something of a transitional title in his expansive body of work, this ranks among his all time best, marking the end of his economic era (the “Wes Brown” period, though littered with additional aliases) with small cast chamber pieces such as THE SEDUCTION OF LYN CARTER and heralding the arrival of his most fruitful filmmaking stretch with blockbusters SEXWORLD and TALK DIRTY TO ME. Containing characteristics of both artistic extremes, EASY hearkens back to earlier examinations of female sexuality including the unjustly overlooked Mimi Morgan showcase THE FIRST TIME but disrupts their Spartan set-up by widening his scope to encompass outside influences that shed light on the anti-heroine’s plight and motives. Not a first for the director who had already painted a complex canvas of cause and consequence in 1976’s CRY FOR CINDY but EASY was to implement the habit.

The film also marks the beginning of not one but two beautiful as well as mutually beneficial friendships. Starlet Jesie St. James had but a few minor carnal credits to her name when she caught Weston’s eye and he was to mold her Svengali-style into his movie-making muse. Though still in her twenties, she projected a maturity well beyond her years which found her frequently cast as a disenchanted thirty-something, kind of a capsule description of Easy’s Kate Harrison. Another fortuitous meeting took place as Playgirl magazine’s upcoming Man of the Year Howie Gordon (soon christened “Richard Pacheco” by Sam’s son Mitch) joined the cast. Already a serviceable light comedian, he would explore far darker territory at Sam’s behest. He’s genuinely unsettling as the creepy kid barely out of high school, back to settle the score with his unattainable teacher.

For a “woman’s picture” centered around St. James’s put upon schoolmarm, Easy contains surprisingly edgy elements that might have caused the material to capsize into misogyny in lesser hands. Leaving her employment after two successive indiscretions, the psychotic Pacheco coercing her into mean-spirited follow-up upon learning of her furtive fellatio on his friend Dan Howard (from Patrick Wright’s R-rated Hollywood HIGH), she embarks on a quest for erotic fulfillment hoping this will lead to romantic bliss with a kindred spirit. Low on self esteem, she pretty much throws it down with any guy giving her the once over. Occasionally this works out well, leading to mattress-searing sex with blind piano tuner Ken Scudder with a cute LAST TANGO IN Paris nod thrown in for the highbrows. At any rate her promiscuity puts her past polite introductions with broody bestselling author Victor, another knockout performance by fascinating Jack Wright, an actor supposedly stunted for in explicit endeavors although he definitely does the dirty with Jesie in their rooftop terrace romp. Temperamentally suited to one another, Kate and Victor move in together and all seems rosy for a while. Since all men are heels, Spinelli pulls out the rug from under her by having the loathsome paramour sick his lesbian pal Janet on her by way of break-up ! A memorable cameo by Georgina Spelvin, latter’s all sweetness and smiles when she comes calling, showing her true colors once she’s got a foot in the door, tearing into the stunned into submission Kate for one of the superlative Sapphic scenes ever shot. Not to worry though as Kate confides at film’s fade-out to best friend Ann (under-used Desirée Cousteau) having met another man of her dreams in impossibly youthful looking Mike Horner, yet to become “Don Hart”. Naturally, he informs her post coitus that he’s going back to a wife she never knew existed in the first place. Poor pathetic Kate’s all alone again as voices from the past fill the soundtrack.

Helped by colorful cinematography from an eager young upstart named Jack Remy who was to emerge as one of the industry’s ace DoP’s in years to come, EASY effortlessly rises above occasionally questionable material through Spinelli’s sensitive handling and uniformly excellent acting. Jesie’s back-breaking turn remains one of the Seven Wonders of Sex Cinema, bringing out an emotional complexity that’s not always there in the writing, sketchy screenplay attributed to Jack Livingston who wrote Bob Vosse’s JEZEBEL. She stays firmly in character throughout the sex scenes which forces them to add to rather than interrupt her performance. It’s doubtful that the director ever matched the level of sheer intensity he achieves with ample assistance from his admirable leading lady. The movie temporarily runs out of steam only when focus shifts away from Kate’s character during a drawn-out dinner party with Cousteau (fresh from Alex de Renzy’s PRETTY PEACHES and yet to catapult to super-stardom) and late lamented Laurien Dominique batting well below average with a pair of no name studs of little apparent appeal.