Five Easy Pieces Movie Review
Five Easy Pieces is a 1970 Oscar nominated drama film starring Jack Nicholson and Karen Black. It is one of the better and more underrated drama films of the seventies.
The story is about a man who hears that his father is dying and goes home to see him bringing along his girlfriend. The premise is nothing spectacular when you hear about it, but it is executed so well and it has such a smart and wonderfully crafted screenplay. However, here is one major problem I have with the film and that is the editing. It is very weird and problematic. The first third is so dragged and there isn’t a point to have half an hour before learning about his father except for the film to introduce its characters. And on the other hand, the last third is definitely rushed which is a shame because the film really starts to become interesting later on. But that is the only major problem here in an otherwise outstanding film. That first third is somewhat weaker, but second third is superb with excellent character study and some fine humor, while the last third is a terrific conclusion with a very memorable and smart ending. Of course the story is superb with not a single cliché used which is quite an accomplishment.
The characterization here is thankfully remarkably good because the script necessitates it. The protagonist is highly unlikable and even obnoxious at times, but while that is a problem at times, it is also the film’s strength because it is very realistic and relevant in his portrayal. His relationship with all the other characters is remarkable and very well executed. And his scenes with Catherine and his sick father are also wonderful. Rayette is his very stupid, redneck girlfriend and although she is weak and not the brightest, her care for him is evident and she is sympathetic, although pitiful at times. Catherine as his affair girlfriend is very well developed as well along with the protagonist’s sister. But there are also two characters that shouldn’t be forgotten and those are the two women who they pick up while driving to his father’s home. One woman in particular. She is simply hilarious with her hippie attitude and obsession with filth and her constant repeated phrase after a long speech – “I don’t even want to talk about it” – is extremely funny and delivered perfectly. Her character is a comic highlight bringing some very nice humor to an otherwise serious film.
All those well developed characters needed great actors and they got them. Each and every performance in this movie is phenomenal. Karen Black is excellent in her very demanding role and all of the family members are wonderfully acted as well, but this is of course Jack Nicholson’s movie and he absolutely nails it, giving probably his best performance ever. He is so natural, so professional that he brings depth to his character and is a standout in the whole film.
It is technically a fantastic film as well. The tone is well handled and the direction is excellent. The film is filled with emotion but also realism which is great. And the dialogue is, along with the script, very realistic and clever, perfectly delivered and executed. Apart from the editing, the technical aspects are great.