Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Billy Green Bush, Fannie Flagg,
A dropout from upper-class America picks up work along the way on oil rigs when his life isn't spent in a squalid succession of bars, motels, and other points of interest.
  • 7.4 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Carole Eastman, Writer:
  • Bob Rafelson, Director:
  • Richard Wechsler, Producer:


10/10 / 10

Bob Rafelson's FIVE EASY PIECES is about inner pain and suffering that justso happens to consume people in all walks of life. It is sometimes hard towatch and Nicholson's character "Robert" is a miserable SOB. However, he isalso a very compelling character who affects all around him. He is lonely,he is scared, and he does not know what to do with himself.

If you are looking for plot, this is not the picture for you. The onlyremnants of a plot concern Nicholson's father, a distant memory of hisprevious prestigious lifestyle as a classical pianist, who has fallen sick.Jack decides to visit his family's estate to pay his last respects. Thissets the forum of emotional indifference and misery. He hates his old life,which he left to become a construction worker and has taken up with aflighty waitress played brilliantly by Karen Black. He pretends to enjoythis simple way of living, but he treats Black like the trash he considersher to be and could care less about anyone.

Why should anyone see this film? Because Jack Nicholson is one of ourgreatest actors and he is able to transcend what was put on paper regardingthe main character and project raw power and feelings in his own, uniqueway. The movie is littered with classic scenes, in particular, the chickensalad sandwich scene, one of the funniest I've ever seen. The one I feelthat stands out and symbolizes the essence of the film is where Jack playsChopin in the piano room while Rafelson's camera does a slow 360 around theroom, glancing at pictures of his life before he fled from it. It is aperfect mixture of intensity, music, and sadness.

The last scene, which ends so abruptly, makes perfect sense within thiscontext. It leaves us feeling empty and unfulfilled, exactly howNicholson's character feels. This is what makesthis character piece all the more powerful.

9/10 / 10

Previously known only for creating 'The Monkees', Bob Rafelson produced anunderrated masterpiece when he made 'Five Easy Pieces', a film that deservesto be a lot better known. Jack Nicholson, typically intense but atypicallyunderstated, has possibly his finest hour as Bobby Duprea, a self-hatingmisogynist ill at ease with himself and the world. Many people will, whenthinking of Nicholson, bring to mind his pantomime pyschopath Johnny from'The Shining'; but Bobby, a profoundly human creation, is actually far morescary. Elsewhere the film features characteristically gorgeouscinematography from Laszlo Kovaks; a soundtrack that skilfully offsets TammyWynette and Chopin; excellent writing throughout and some very black humour. Like a less extreme version of Mike Leigh's 'Naked', and bristling withuncomfortable truth, 'Five Easy Pieces' is a true classic of 1970s cinema.Few films today are as good.

10/10 / 10

In discussing films with extraordinary characterization, Bob Rafelson's"Five Easy Pieces" is an exemplary example. The film is an intensecharacterstudy of an alienated, misfit drifter who seems to have no specificdirection or place in life. Jack Nicholson brings to life Robert Dupea, aman who has considerable natural musical talent, but has rejected thatlifeand his family who is also musically talented. There are hints throughoutthe film that Robert had great promise as a concert pianist if only he hadstuck with it. He contains many of the creative personalitycharacteristicsthat would predispose him to musical greatness. Psychologists who studycreativity have found that generally creative people contain a number ofspecific personality characteristics. Robert contains many of them, buthasgenerally abandoned creating anything.

I would first like to comment on why I feel the film received the title,"Five Easy Pieces". I at first thought that it might be because Robertplayspiano five times throughout the film. But in a second viewing, I countedandhe only played piano four times, including the time where he mimicsplayingthe piano at the dinner table when discussing his experience playing inLasVegas. I pondered a little further and realized that the title was likelyspawned from the five classical pieces listed in the introductory credits;Chopin's Fantasy in F minor, Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, Mozart'sE-flat major concerto, Chopin's Prelude in E minor, and finally Mozart'sFantasy in D minor. I myself am not a musician, but other people who doplaymusic have told me that these pieces are somewhat difficult to play. ButRobert can sit down and play them with no problem. In this sense, thetitle"Five Easy Pieces" is somewhat ironic.

One of the main characteristics of creative people is 'alienation'. I willdiscuss this concept first because alienation is one of the central themesof the film. The alienation that lies in Robert is a direct result of hislack of direction towards any one particular life. In his case, one lifewould be the average working class type of person and the other would bethat of a musician. Robert seems to be caught somewhere between the two.Hecame from a talented, musically oriented family and was at one point, apromising pianist, but now engages in a common, working class lifestylewhere he drinks beer, bowls, listens to country music and chases afterwomen. But it is evident that he does not feel settled in this lifestyle.Heis as much of a misfit among the common community as he is among themusicalatmosphere of Puget Sound. In essence, he is a nowhere type ofman.

Robert also displays the personality characteristic of 'naivete', meaningthat a person tends to act somewhat child-like. Creative people tend to bequite impulsive and open to emotional display, and are quite often labeledas temperamental. Poet, Earl Birney states that "poets might just bepeoplewho have not overgrown their love for poetry as a child". Many researchershave theorized that the creator is like a child. Schiller argues that youcan not create if your intellect (a uniquely adult attribute) hinders you.Another theorist, Osborne argues that to be creative one must eliminatethemature, intellectual attitude, and that creative people are able to resistpremature judgements through the use of brainstorming techniques,producingmany ideas and alternatives. Freud said that both the child and thecreativeperson are similar in that both have unfulfilled wishes and desires.Satisfied people do not create. He argued that all people need an escapefrom reality; in adulthood we daydream (play internally) for wishfulfillment, but the creative person keeps it external by creatingsomethingsuch as a symphony, poem, or a painting etc. At many points in "Five EasyPieces", Robert displays child like behavior. This is characterized mostnotably in the famous scene where he explodes at a waitress in a dinerbecause the establishment does not have the meal that he desires. He fliesinto a temper tantrum and sweeps all of the glasses and menus off thetable.Another wonderful scene illustrating Robert's naivete is the one when hejumps aboard a truck with a piano in the back and begins playing it duringatraffic jam. Creative people, like children are often open to highemotionaldisplay, and hence Robert seizes the moment by playing the piano to gethismind off the traffic jam which he has lost patience with. He, like manyother creative people is very confident, self assertive, dominant, andindependent.

The film's narrative neatly unfolds, Robert's insecurity, another commoncreative trait. Many great creators have doubts about the quality of theirproduct and the authenticity of their talent, hence the notion thatcreativepeople are never satisfied. It is quite evident that Robert has highdoubtsthat he could be a great pianist. This is probably why he ended up being adrifter, choosing the common, trailer park sort of life. There is a scenenear the end of the film where Robert is speaking with his father and in away apologizing for his own life and not living up to the expectations ofthe family. He states that they both know that Robert is not any goodanyway. This is a depiction of his insecurity. But not only is he insecureabout his talent as a musician; he is also insecure about his life ingeneral. He is caught somewhere in between two worlds, the world of thecommon man and the world of the creative musician, and thus is alwaysrunning away from things as a result.

All of the creative theory aside, "Five Easy Pieces" is very enjoyable onthe level of acting. Jack Nicholson nails the character of Robert Dupeadeadon. The character called for a certain degree of arrogance andobnoxiousnesswhich are characteristics that we all know that no one can portray betterthan Jack.

**** out of ****

10/10 / 10

This movie is most famous for a scene in which Jack Nicholson tells awaitress to hold the chicken salad between her knees so he can get someplain wheat toast, but, in a movie as good as this, that very famousscene may be its least memorable one. After that scene, I hadn't heardanything about what this film was really about, and its depth and powertook me completely by surprise. It's a story of a man trapped in hisown life, unable to find a place to settle. All the locations at whichhe has arrived have lead to nothing but disappointment and therealization that there just might not be a life for him. God, how I cansympathize. Just as I was starting to question whether Nicholson was asgood an actor as everybody seems to think he is, I've come upon hisvery best performance. Karen Black plays his girlfriend, a hick wholoves him to death. He's not sure if she's good enough for him, or viceversa. Lois Smith, Ralph Waite, and Susan Anspach give good supportingperformances. A flat-out masterpiece.

8/10 / 10

"Five Easy Pieces" was one of the most revered films of the 1970s. Itwas the film that showed audiences what Jack Nicholson could do, afterhaving worked for many years in movies that were seen only by realcinephiles, but not by a wider audiences. Not having seen the film in along time, we decided to watch it when it showed on cable recently. Theonly thing is the copy we saw was not anamorphic in format, which onkey scenes almost shows a blank screen while the characters talk offcamera!

Bob Rafelson and Carole Eastman created a screen play that dealt withexistential themes, a rarity in the American cinema. Mr. Rafelson wasat the height of his creative period, something that later projectsseem to contradict the promise he showed at the time.

Bobby Dupea, the main character of the story, is a complex individualwho has left a life of privilege and culture behind to become an oilrig worker and getting away from his previous life. At the time we meethim, he is involved with Rayette, a simple woman who loves him, but onecan see how different they are. That contrast comes more obvious whenBobby goes back home and meets Catherine, his brother's fiancée, who isa musician and seem to be more attuned with Bobby than the simpleminded Rayette.

"Five Easy Pieces" was a film that showcased the enormously talentedJack Nicholson doing some interesting work. The measure of his actingability is seen about half way in the movie as Bobby, Rayette, and thetwo lesbian hitchhikers have stopped at a diner. Bobby's meal orderrequest creates a match of words in which Mr. Nicholson shows what heis capable of doing.

The film concludes with a puzzling scene, as Bobby and Rayette areheading back home. We watch them stopping at a gas station and littleprepares us for what happens next. In a way, we have seen all along thefilm how restless Bobby has become and it's clear that in spite of hisbeing with Rayette, she will never understands how to make him happy atall.

The reason for watching "Five Easy Pieces" is Jack Nicholson. Hischaracter is the most interesting one in the film and he does anexcellent job in creating the tension behind this complex man heportraits. Karen Black's Rayette is annoying at times because of herwhining. Susan Anspach comes out better playing Catherine. Some otherfamiliar faces in the cast are, Sally Struthers, Ralph White, LoisSmith, Billy Green Bush and Fannie Flagg.

"Five Easy Pieces" is one of the best films of that decade.