Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Reviewed on 2008 January 21
As great as the acting is in Five Easy Pieces, this is not an easy movie for me to watch. About the only likable character was Bobby’s sister (and that could be because we only saw small portions of her).
Robert Dupea (Jack Nicholson) is a fish out of water no matter where he goes. He fled his wealthy, pretentious, musically-gifted family for life in the oil fields and chafes there too. He’s cold and unfaithful to his girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black, here looking kind of like either a Lou Shabner or Keane painting, depending on whether or not Bob made her cry). Rayette is not a very bright person. She can be annoyingly needy and she’s as clingy as a Kleenex® left in a washer, but she deserves better than Bobby, who does things like promise her a good time out, and then turn nasty when she bowls a lousy game.
Bobby learns his father had a stroke, and decides to make a trip to the family home. He invites Rayette along, grudgingly, and when he gets reunited with his family we get to see more clues as to what made him the way he is.
Carole Eastman and Bob Rafelson wrote something that conveyed the social changes of the ’60s and ’70s, in addition to being a depressing character study. The dialogue is brilliant in places. Everyone knows the famous chicken salad bit, but another great line comes towards the beginning of the movie, with Bobby’s suggestion to another motorist that kept honking at him during a traffic jam. The acting is good too. Nicholson could make Bobby just shy of so-awful-I-quit-watching, and it amazes me Karen Black could go from sweet, fluffy Rayette to Ma Firefly. But like I said, it’s not an upbeat movie at all. The dinner table sequence where Robby’s family looks at Rayette like she’s some backwoods reject while she’s trying to be polite and charming to them is absolutely painful (oh sure, they’re superficially polite but look at their faces). And we still have a ways to go from that point.
Three chocolate morsels.