Five Easy Pieces Screen 14 articles

Five Easy Pieces

1970

Five Easy Pieces Poster
  • Bob Rafelson's 1970 film bridges the self-indulgence of the 60s youth cinema and the deflated naturalism of the 70s. The film embraces proletarian chic but still gets its laughs by abusing waitresses.

  • When the film isn't scoring easy points against hicks and snobs alike, it creates a remarkably credible world, one that seems largely divorced from the imperatives of standard screenwriting structure. Lois Smith, for example, as Bobby's sister Tita, suggests a complex, fascinating human being who could easily be the focus of a parallel movie (though it might be a Todd Solondz movie)...

  • Five Easy Pieces is the ultimate road movie, a relaxed masterpiece, a film of laid-back innovation that hasn’t aged one iota since its original release. There’s no particular dramatic impetus in Five Easy Pieces, just a journey from nowhere to nowhere, featuring a new actor who grabbed the attention of the film-going public and who hasn’t let go yet.

  • Director Bob Rafelson and screenwriter Carole Eastman's film is totally human, trading Rider's counterculture mytho-poetics for a study in the charisma of disdain (which Nicholson personifies) and how rebellion and loutishness are often indistinguishable (ditto), never excusing the pain Bobby causes. Set against the stillness of cinematographer László Kovács's luminous landscapes, now restored for the film's 40th anniversary, it's a great work of the Discover America Seventies.

  • The juxtaposition exposes the lie of any accusations that Five Easy Pieces is a glorification of irresponsibility, as does the satisfyingly unsatisfying ending.

  • Recalling a conversation from the shoot years ago, [Karen] Black says, "Jack and I were talking about certain people, people I thought put on airs, and I was saying to him that I couldn't see the person behind the facade. And Jack said to me, ‘Blackie, you look deeply enough, and you will find the human.' " One reason "Five Easy Pieces" remains so powerful is because it's a film that, with every frame, looks deeply, trying to find the human.

  • What makes “Five Easy Pieces” a monument is its portrait of male self-loathing as a phenomenon in and of itself, something that can happen to anyone. He’s not tortured by the ’50s like Don Draper or traumatized by World War II like “The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit”; he’s his own sick, sad creation, and that can’t be explained away through a social context — not entirely anyway.

  • Five Easy Pieces, made in 1970, is thoughtful, complex and boasts one of Jack Nicholson's greatest performances as the misfit Bobby Dupea. This was Nicholson before his star persona was fully set. Alongside his trademark brashness, there is a vulnerability and uncertainty here that you don't find in his later performances.

  • A key turn-of-the-decade film, with Nicholson railing against waitresses and barking at noisy dogs as Rafelson observes seedily picturesque roadside America.

  • [Bobby Dupea is] an invention worthy of epic literature but realized in wholly cinematic terms... While taking a page from Bergman's drama of painful self-examination, FIVE EASY PIECES--collaborative filmmaking at its finest--extends such scrutiny to an entire generation.

  • Film production is a cumbersome and lengthy affair, and the finished product, no matter how good, almost always lags behind or stands apart from its moment. Occasionally, though, when the conditions allow, movie and moment are one... Five Easy Pieces speaks with eloquence and simplicity from and to the America of its time, from melancholy opening to ineffably sad closing shot. In 1970, it was a revelation. Today, it remains a shattering experience.

  • Nicholson was the star, but the land¬scape was paramount—in this case, cinematographer Kovács lavished his attention on the bowling alleys, trailer parks, gas stations, diners, and cheap motels that, however familiar from Robert Frank’s midfifties photographs, had rarely been seen in American movies... In some respects, the movie suggested an American version of Shoot the Piano Player: existentially traumatized oil rigger Bobby Dupea is a trained classical pianist in flight from his past.

  • Though the camera worships Nicholson’s dynamism, until this point Dupea has been an enigmatic protagonist. Rafelson could have shot him static throughout the entire piece, but in gracefully panning the camera about the room, picking up framed pictures on the walls... we get a sense of a life and identity to which we were never priorly privileged.

  • Jack Nicholson's performance in Five Easy Pieces is a marvel of carefully released physical energy. The actor can push himself out of a chair or roll a bowling ball contemptuously down a lane and tell you more about his character than many performers could with pages of motivational dialogue. You can't take your eyes off of Nicholson in this film: He suggests an ambulatory shard of copper wire running around emitting sparks, or an emotional painter, his primary hue of choice being anger.

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