Five Easy Pieces
Finally, after weeks of lackluster cinematic nourishment, I get to watch something exciting. “Five Easy Pieces” was exactly that interesting and different an experience I was craving.
Robert Dupea (Jack Nicholson) is living a random existence. He is living with a girl, Rayette (Karen Black), whom he clearly dates for the sex and little else, certainly not what is inside her head, and works on an oilrig as a grunt. Here he has befriended Elton (Billy Bush) with whom he plays poker and bowling and occasionally screws his wife. It is pretty clear that Robert lives a life with as few hard attachments as possible and that everything is temporary. When Elton gets arrested for an old offense it is time to quit the job and Robert heads to Los Angeles to meet his sister, Partita.
Partita Dupea (Lois Smith) is a classical pianist, currently making a recoding in a studio, and we learn that so is Robert and in fact his entire family. Partita begs him to come home as their father is very ill and it is time to be reconciled. Robert first wants to go alone, but when Rayette throws a fit he agrees to bring her along, but installs her on a motel.
At the family home Robert meets Catherine (Susan Anspach) whom he makes a successful pass on whereupon Rayette shows up and everything turns sour for Robert.
What now, Robert Dupea?
This does not sound super interesting in summary, but it is. Jack Nicholson, who was a joy to watch, was perfectly casted as the drifter Robert. Behind his hard surface there is a desperate child who is afraid to commit and keeps running away instead of facing the music. As a portrait of a man who does not want to take the consequences of his actions it is brilliant. I would normally not enjoy a depressing topic like that but here it was made interesting. It helps that there is a certain wry humor throughout. Rayette really has the depth of puddle after a light rain, in the studio the technicians are exasperated when Partita starts humming horribly to her playing and so forth, but it gets very black and delicious when Rayette shows up at the family home. Robert’s escapade with Catherine is in shambles and Rayette perfectly sabotages a highbrow get-together by her sheer presence.
The best part however is the ending. Without revealing anything I can certainly say that this was not the ending I expected, but in hindsight probably the right and natural ending. What sort of resolution do you expect in a movie about a man who abhors resolutions?
“Five Easy Pieces” is a movie that looks ahead, into the seventies, with very little glamour, but excellent human portraits. As such I can certainly say I have left the sixties behind and arrived at a new modernity, a continuation from “Midnight Cowboy”.
Then, of course, Jack Nicholson is a big reason for watching this movie. He is young here (with hair) and it is before “The Shining” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest” but you can already see those devilish traits that would become his trademarks later on and in fact, Jack Nicholson had already been doing movies for twelve years at this point. Not a novice at all.
“Five Easy Pieces” is a definite recommendation from me and not just because the bar on the List have been significantly lowered lately.