I’m way behind writing up my thoughts on Five Easy Pieces since I watched it God knows how many months ago, but here goes…I knew very little about the film except for the famous diner scene in which Jack Nicholson’s character Robert Dupea simply wants a piece of toast, but finds there’s no easy way to obtain it:
Going by this scene, I think I had expected a movie high on drama and black comedy, but it’s actually a rather meandering story trailing along after Dupea as he avoids settling down in any way, whether it’s back home with his wealthy artistic family or with his sweet but “trailer trash” girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black).
There’s a cringeful clash of worlds when Rayette follows Dupea back to his family home and dying father, and they are both worlds which Robert now wishes to escape because, as he admits to his now mute father, he’s always “getting away from things that get bad if he stays”. You find yourself piecing together reasons for Dupea’s behaviour and his need to keep moving on in life; certainly there seems to have been tension between himself and his father, who no doubt would have expected his son to pursue his musical gift (it turns out Dupea was a very talented piano player). Then there is the simple fact that there are people in the world who are just not suited to family life, fatherhood or marriage, all of the things that those around Dupea want him to embrace. Those hoping for a nicely wrapped up ending will be disappointed, yet the film surely stays true to Dupea’s character right down the closing credits. Unless he himself decides to put down roots, nobody else is going to make him do so. This is a movie definitely worth a look if only for Nicholson’s great performance. You will be humming Tammy Wynette songs for days afterward however. All together now: “Stand by your man…”