‘Five Easy Pieces’ (1970) 350 Word DVD Review

June 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

Score: 4 out of 5

The prodigal son returns.

Jack Nicholson stars in this family drama, directed by Bob Rafelson and written by Carole Eastman. Robert “Bobby” Eroica Dupea (Nicholson), a drop-out and the youngest son in a family of stellar musicians, spends his time working odd jobs, chasing women, gambling and frittering away his existence on excess. When his sister informs him of their father’s poor health – having suffered two strokes – she convinces Robert to come back to the family home for a week to see how the old man is holding up. So, along with his doting – but very clingy – girlfriend, Rayette Dipesto (Karen Black), he drives up to the old homestead. For what reason? To escape his future? To face his past? Both?

Five Easy Pieces is a very intelligently written, relatively short, film. It doesn’t spell everything out; nor does it try to overtly explain or resolve anything about Bobby’s character and the rest of the family. We are given hints and clues through the dialogue and the direction, but they’re never horribly overstated. Jack Nicholson does an excellent job in the shoes of a very complex, confused character. While he’s certainly not immediately likable, by the end he is at least understandable. It is in a great deal due to Jack, who carries the character so completely, so charismatically, that the film remains compelling right to the end.

Five Easy Pieces has since passed on into cinematic legend. It captured a great deal of the resentment coming from the counter-culture movement of the 60s/70s – this time, physically manifested in the body of Robert Eroica Dupea. The most famous scene of the movie, Bobby’s argument with the waitress at the diner, might also be argued as being clearly symbolic of a feeling within American culture at that time. Watched outside of this context, though, Five Easy Pieces stands up on its own as a brilliant, intricate character study – not of a sociological movement, but of an angry young man.

(333 words.)

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