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Five Easy Pieces (1970)

cover Directed by
Bob Rafelson

Writing credits
Carole Eastman (also story)
Bob Rafelson (story)

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Genre: Drama / Music (more)

Tagline: He Rode The Fast Lane On The Road To Nowhere.

Plot Outline: A trashy oil rigger returns home to comfort his dying father, where he is confronted with the past he ran away from: A successful career as a classical pianist. (more) (view trailer)

User Comments: The decade when movies mattered. (more)

User Rating: ********__ 7.4/10 (4,538 votes) Vote Here

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jack Nicholson .... Robert Eroica Dupea
Karen Black .... Rayette Dipesto
Billy Green Bush .... Elton (as Billy 'Green' Bush)
Fannie Flagg .... Stoney
Sally Struthers .... Betty (as Sally Ann Struthers)
Marlena MacGuire .... Twinky (as Marlena Macguire)
Richard Stahl .... Recording Engineer
Lois Smith .... Partita Dupea
Helena Kallianiotes .... Palm Apodaca
Toni Basil .... Terry Grouse
Lorna Thayer .... Waitress
Susan Anspach .... Catherine Van Oost
Ralph Waite .... Carl Fidelio Dupea
William Challee .... Nicholas Dupea
John P. Ryan .... Spicer (as John Ryan)

Runtime: 96 min
Country: USA
Language: English
Color: Color (Technicolor)
Sound Mix: Mono
Certification: Australia:M / Finland:K-16 / New Zealand:R16 / USA:R / UK:15 / UK:AA (original rating)

Trivia: When Dupea goes to quit his oil-rigging job, the loud whirring of machines can be heard in the background. This identical sound effect was used seven years later by George Lucas, for the trash compacter scene in Star Wars (1977). (more)

Goofs: Continuity: A full rack of ten pins appears after Rayette picks up the spare following her gutter ball. (more)

Betty: When I was four, just four years old, I went to my mother and I said, "What's this hole in my chin?" - I saw this dimple in my chin in the mirror, and didn't know what it was. And my mother said - get what my mother says - she says, "When you're born, you go on a assembly line past God, and if He likes you, He says,
[grabs her cheeks with both her hands]
Betty: "You cute little thing!" and you get dimples there. And if He doesn't like you, He goes,
[presses one finger on her chin]
Betty: "Go away." So about six months later, my mother found me saying my prayers, and I was going,

Awards: Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 15 wins & 6 nominations (more)
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User Comments:

24 out of 26 people found the following comment useful:-
The decade when movies mattered., 20 August 2005
Author: filmfactsman ( from Beverly Hills, CA

The themes and issues of the Sixties rapidly matured and by the decade's end the sense of antagonism and opposition in the country had deepened. On one side was the Nixon administration, firm in its belief that a "silent majority" of Americans endorsed its related policies of "peace with honor" in Vietnam and confrontation rather than conciliation with the burgeoning antiwar movement at home. Meanwhile, on the other side was a counterculture which grew daily more secure in its abundance, militant in its politics, confident and diversified in its culture (rock 'n' roll), its rituals (drugs) and its varied alternative lifestyles.

Into such an atmosphere 1970's "Five Easy Pieces" arrived. The "easy" of the title echoed "Easy Rider" (1969) and the film's protagonist, Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson), seemed a likely elaboration of the supporting character Nicholson had portrayed in the earlier film. There were certain structural similarities between the two movies, but "Five Easy Pieces" illuminated the distance between 1969 and 1970 in its suggestion that the resentment and anger in the land were no longer a sole affliction of the young but could be located in any American. The badge of youth culture (a hot bike, long hair, drugs, etc.) was no longer necessary to convey the sense of crisis; the outsider of the film is not a "hippie," nor in his lifestyle evidently antisocial. Bobby's is a private ordeal, and one of the fundamental premises of the film is that Bobby seeks not the solidarity of Haight-Ashbury but rather a world adverse to Sixties youth: the closed blue-collar universe of the Southern California oil fields and the culture of beer, bowling and country music that sustains it. A classically trained pianist from an intellectual background, Bobby has fled his culture-worshiping family--first for the Las Vegas honky-tonks, now a step further to the manual labor of the oil fields. We meet him in the latter setting, one in which he at first seems to thrive; the film then back steps to reveal his true background. This structure tends to legitimize Bobby's alternative life, while it casts suspicion over his actual one, implicating us in the film's tension and subject: the acute identity crisis of a man who doesn't fit in. The search for a person's identity has seldom been better shown. The film is more character study than story, and the tale has no compelling tension, other than the excellence of the players.

"Five Easy Pieces" has been called a "road picture," a genre that is peculiarly American because it is about homeless people in search of something. In "Easy Rider" featuring Nicholson along with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, the search was for a life-style, a place to settle down among like-thinking people and yet retain independence. But we never knew who the people really were and what made them the restless souls they turned out to be. What sets "Five Easy Pieces" apart from other road films is that we come to know the hero's roots. He returns home. And his visit tells us why he left.

The film is full of odd, funny moments (like the memorable waitress scene) and unusual movie characters including Karen Black's Rayette, Bobby's pregnant girlfriend, Sally Struthers's floozy Bette and Helena Kallianiotes's constantly complaining hitchhiker Palm Apodaca. But the humor is cut by Tammy Wynette's shattered-dreams songs on the soundtrack and an assortment of pathetic characters who are trapped in wheelchairs and neck braces, or by their own insecurities or circumstances. We aren't supposed to admire Bobby for escaping his trap, life with the likable but annoying Rayette (who often sings Wynette's "Stand by Your Man"), but we would understand that he would suffocate if he committed himself to her. So we accept his running away because it is for her benefit more than his own.

As disaffected a character as Bobby Dupea is, he was sort of an Everyman in 1970. Young viewers in the counterculture realized that Bobby didn't share their discontent with the political state of America, and they didn't relate to his present or past lives, but they did identify with Bobby's outsider status; restlessness; fury and irritation when pressured; sexual energy; inability to fit comfortably into marriage, parenthood, or other niches; need to keep the exit door within sight; disappointment in himself; and desperation to mend and give meaning to his life. They could relate to his feeling that nothing in America worked properly, that everything was geared to drive a person crazy.

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