Director: Bob Rafelson
Jack Nicholson is certainly one of the most gifted contemporary American actors, as he proved with such unforgettable movie performances as “Chinatown”, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “The Shining”, but also “Five Easy Pieces”. That classic film features some of Nicholson’s signature tantrums, yet it’s a different Jack we watch in this film, a more vulnerable and moving one. He plays Robert Eroica Dupea, a moody oil-field rigger who doesn’t seem to be fulfilled by his lower middle-class life. He’s dating a good-intentioned but flimsy and annoying waitress obsessed with Tammy Wynette, he spends his days doing hard physical work and his nights playing bowling and sinking deeper in mediocrity. He’s full of angst and frustration, and not always easy to live around. And then he learns that his father, which he hasn’t seen in years, is very ill. The movie is about how Dupea takes on journey back to his childhood.
First he hits the road with his girl, tearing through a slice of America, and finally gets to the Island, where his father, a musical genius, raised him and his siblings. His sister has become a pianist and his brother a fiddler and music teacher. The film is about how the boy who used to practice to become a concert pianist grew to feel the need to hide in the anonymity of the working class. It was written by Adrian Joyce and directed by Bob Rafelson, who gradually develop Robert Dupea into a full-blown character without ever forcing it. Jack Nicholson’s intense, wrenching acting is also essential. There are many brilliant scenes in the film. There’s the gorgeous looking scenes in the oil field, the textured feel of middle America diners and trailer parks, the grandeur of the mansion on the island. There’s the talkative hitchhiker who wants to move to Alaska because it looks clean, the bitchy waitress who gets her comeuppance from Nicholson, that great scene in which he leaps from his in traffic jam, climbs up a truck and plays the piano, his brief but passionate affair with a student of his brother, his wrenching heart-to-heart with his father… “Five Easy Pieces” is a fascinating character study.