Nicholson plays the now iconic cad Bobby Dupea, a shiftless thirtysomething oil rigger and former piano prodigy immune to any sense of romantic or familial responsibility, who returns to his childhood home to see his ailing estranged father, with his blue-collar girlfriend (Karen Black) in tow.
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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.
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.
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)…
Nicholson's Bobby is one of the great cads of American cinema, a restless wreck who belongs nowhere, a man with contempt for both the bourgeois privilege he jumps away from and the working class awaiting him at the bottom. Far more than Easy Rider, it deserves the tagline about a man looking for America and not finding it anywhere. And in the monolog to his father, we see the first triumph of Jack as a great actor.
Let's face it, this is a film that has one truly classic scene, and whenever anyone talks about this film, that scene is the one they mention. The rest of the film is very dull. I give it 3 stars by averaging out a 5 start scene in a 1 star film.
A complete classic. What makes me love this film is how interesting it is without you even knowing why. It defies everything they teach in screenwriting books; Bobby is not very likable and the likable characters are all treated miserably. There is no real character arc, no big plot that it rides on. I think the film simply tries to slowly let you understand these people. A refreshing film that I'll revisit often
Five Easy Pieces is incendiary magnificence. Jack Nicholson has rarely been better and Bob Rafelson does a phenomenal job of putting you in Nicholson's head. Five Easy Pieces is also chock full of great random and fleeting moments for which it has and will be remembered. The supporting cast is superb and the movie gets better with each viewing.
It accomplishes the same as Easy Rider but with a much more interesting level of nuance. Nicholson is a force to behold, a vessel for the disenchantment with the American dream and the ineffable search for happiness. His ultimate sacrifice is a noble one, even though an air of stagnation lingers on the screen, a perfect metaphor for an America of the past… and the present.
The quintessential 70's film. You really don't need to go any further to understand what the decade was trying to express with its art and how it went about it. Nicholson is great here as always and it's worth the price of admission for the scene in the diner where he orders the chicken salad sandwich.