Wednesday, August 13, 2014

509. Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Running Time: 96 minutes
Directed By: Bob Rafelson
Written By: Carole Eastman, Bob Rafelson
Main Cast: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Susan Anspach, Lois Smith, Ralph Waite
Click here to view the trailer

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the passing of Robin Williams. I was never a huge fan of the comedian, but was still shocked and saddened to hear about his death. I can still remember being young and buying Mrs. Doubtfire when it was released on VHS. I bought it from a local supermarket that used to rent and sell tapes and remember bringing it home and watching it several times in the span of just a few days. To this day, my father will still watch the movie if he comes across it on TV. Anyway, he wasn't really my cup of tea when it came to comedy, but there were times, usually in films, when he really made me laugh. The thing that I'll remember him for though is his dramatic turns in films like Insomnia and One Hour Photo. There was something particularly creepy about Williams when he was asked to play a bad guy. Probably because we knew he wasn't really a bad guy and when he pretended to be, it made him all the more dastardly. Rest well Mr. Williams, I hope you've found the peace you were looking for. 


I was doing so well too. I managed to stay up one work night and watch a movie, while I stayed up the following work night and wrote a review. Then my eyelids just couldn't take it anymore and the following three nights of my work week didn't go as planned and I got nothing accomplished. Oh well, I'm back now so let's not dawdle.

Jack Nicholson stars as Robert Dupea, an ex pianist who has traded in his privileged life to lead a blue collar one, taking residence in a trailer park with dim witted, waitress girlfriend Rayette (Black) and holding down a job working on an oil rig. He does the sorts of things that a lot of blue collars did during this time period - heads home after work to enjoy a bottle of beer and maybe a game or two of bowling with another couple and then back to the trailer park to relax while the girlfriend blares Tammy Wynette tunes (D-I-V-O-R-C-E and Stand By Your Man). When Robert learns from his sister Partita (Smith) that their father is ill, he decides to return home to Washington state, to the family and life that he abandoned so many years ago. After a tiff with Rayette about his leaving, he reluctantly invites her to tag along and she accepts. Along the way, the two meet up with two women who have wrecked their car and are headed for Alaska, whom they give a lift. This is also the point in the film where the famous "hold it between your knees" line comes in. Eventually the two make it to their destination and Robert asks (demands) Rayette stay holed up in a motel while he goes and feels out how things are at his former home. Once there, he finds that his father, having suffered two strokes, is basically a vegetable who can't communicate and probably doesn't even recognize Robert. In the meantime, he basically forgets about Rayette and becomes infatuated with Catherine (Anspach), a pianist who is engaged to his brother Carl (Waite). The two end up having an affair, right before Rayette takes it upon herself to arrive at the house - much to Robert's disapproval. 


By the way, if you're married, be careful of the Tammy Wynette song D-I-V-O-R-C-E, as it is a contagious song that you might find yourself singing following the viewing of this movie. You wouldn't want your spouse thinking you're trying to drop them any hints. Seriously though, this is a really great movie produced at a time when so many talented people were making their names in Hollywood. Believe it or not, this is actually Nicholson's first starring role, notes THE BOOK, following his successful supporting job in Easy Rider. I loved Nicholson in this, as he proves that he's not just a name, he's a talent. It's a shame that at 77 years old, he's basically retired as an actor - his last film being some James L. Brooks venture that I hadn't even heard of until I looked it up a moment ago and prior to that The Bucket List, which I didn't care for at all. Anyway, he's great in this, realizing just who this character is and bringing just the right amount of snark to the role. Here we have a man who can't seem to fit in, like that last remaining puzzle piece that just doesn't have the right edges. We start the film with him already having run away from one life and we end the film with him running away from another.

I must note that I love the ending of this movie. I watched this with my wife and at the end, she noted how she couldn't blame him for leaving, that he'd obviously had it with Rayette - who wouldn't shut up and stop irritating him. Nicholson conveys that irritation so effectively, making me feel his frustrations and disappointment with his current life. We observe him throughout the film TRYING so hard to just make it work, but often slipping, yelling at Rayette and then trying to make it right again.

This is a real slice of life picture and has aged really well. It's just about a man trying to find his way, a very simple picture that I think is really easy to enjoy. I had seen this film once before and remembered liking it very well. I was coming off of a pretty vicious headache today and needed something that wasn't going to require a lot of thought and this was just what the doctor ordered, although in the end, I did find myself pondering this character quite a bit, so perhaps my plan backfired. Oh well. It was a fine day at the movies, one that both my wife and I enjoyed and this comes with an easy recommendation. 

RATING: 8/10  I'll get back to Bresson Week next, but I needed something to easy today, like I said. 


Note: I've decided to drop the monthly recap, as I'm having trouble finding the time to watch movies let alone finding the time to do the RECAP. I had a good run, going nearly four years with it, but in all honesty it's kind of a pointless article, as most of my opinions never change that drastically anyway and now that I have the Letterboxd account, you can always stay up to date on anything NON-BOOK that I'm watching. 

August 13, 2014  7:32pm


  1. Gosh, really sorry Andrew, I have been slacking recently in responding..
    I have been not at all well, and sitting at a computer keyboard has been - still is- quite painful.

    Hey, an 8 .. that's quite a find for you in all the ones you have done recently..
    Whilst I wouldn't go quite that high, anything that is not by Robert Bresson is a blessing..

    1. I really hope you're feeling better Ray. No need for apologies. I know I hate pulling myself to the computer chair when I'm unwell.


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