Sunday, July 8, 2012

500. Easy Rider (1969)

Running Time: 95 minutes
Directed By: Dennis Hopper
Written By: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Terry Southern
Main Cast: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Luke Askew, Phil Spector
Click here to view the trailer


Had I gone through THE BOOK chronologically, without skipping a single film, this is still exactly where I'd be at this point in my journey. As I reach the 500 movies watched mark, I figured I'd commemorate the occasion by watching the actual 500th entry in THE BOOK - "Easy Rider".

The plot of "Easy Rider" is an incredibly simple one - a couple of hippies, Wyatt (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper), come upon a large sum of money when they score big on a drug deal south of the border. Feeling adventurous and wanting to tout their freedom, the two hop a couple of motorcycles and take off from Los Angeles, California to New Orleans, LA, destination: Mardi Gras. That's basically the whole meat and potatoes of the script. Along the way they meet a few crazy characters, including an even hippier hippie (Askew) and, when they land themselves in the slammer for parading without a permit, George Hanson (Nicholson), a lawyer's son who can't kick his booze habit and who helps the boys get out of jail free. The film is also used as a vehicle to provide a soundtrack for the sixties, including such tunes as: "The Weight", "Born to Be Wild", "Don't Bogart Me", you know, all the hippiest songs that you can possibly squeeze into ninety minutes.

I like to think of "Easy Rider" as a fond farewell to the sixties and a welcoming in of the seventies, as only the "flower children" would have it. However, the film is really, actually an awful mess that, for some reason, gets showered with accolades for being a trend setter and ushering in a new dawn in Hollywood. Maybe it did have a part in ushering in a new Hollywood age, but the film is just absolutely brutal to have to sit through, with the only good thing coming out of it being Jack Nicholson's portrayal of George Hanson. In the beginning, we see lots of glory shots of Hopper and Fonda on their motorcycles. Then the duo stop and you think the film is finally going to start to go somewhere, but then they hop back on their bikes and we get more glory shots of them riding the roads. It's back and forth like that for the first thirty - forty minutes and it's an obvious stalling tactic, just to fit in the songs that fill out the soundtrack and give the film a more hippie vibe. And hey, I have no problem with hippies, man. I mean, I'm all for pacifism, tye-dye shirts and kicking around a hacky sack, but if you're going to give these guys free range to make a movie, lets at least make sure they have something more to say than a ninety minute monologue on asserting your freedom.

I mean no disrespect toward Dennis Hopper either and luckily, we'll get to a much better Hopper film and performance at some point down the line when I watch "Blue Velvet". But, come on man, was this really meant to be called a "must see"? Maybe if I'd been born in the sixties and I was all hopped up on grass and pills, then maybe I could have that "Whoah man, this is groovy" attitude toward this picture, but I wasn't and I don't. I can just imagine Hopper and Fonda, on the set, drugged out of their mind, saying something to the effect of, "Yeah man, you'll throw your watch on the ground man and like, it'll mean we don't even care about the time man. We're just out there, living and loving and being so free man. Far out!" Gimme' a break! Nothing much happens and if it comes on the television and you're too busy to concentrate on it, leave it on in the background because it DOES provide a great soundtrack, but as far as providing any semblance of a story...nada.

RATING: 3/10  I give it '3' for the Nicholson performance, which I liked and for the music. I can't resist a movie that slips in "The Weight".


July 8, 2012  1:49am

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