Five Easy Pieces

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Five Easy Pieces
Five easy pieces.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bob Rafelson
Produced by
  • Bob Rafelson
  • Richard Wechsler
Screenplay by Adrien Joyce
Story by
  • Bob Rafelson
  • Adrien Joyce
Starring
Cinematography László Kovács
Edited by
  • Christopher Holmes
  • Gerald Shepard
Production
company
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date
September 12, 1970
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$1.6 million
Box office$18.1 million [1]

Five Easy Pieces is a 1970 American drama film written by Carole Eastman (as Adrien Joyce) and Bob Rafelson, and directed by Rafelson. The film stars Jack Nicholson, with Karen Black, Susan Anspach, Ralph Waite, and Sally Struthers in supporting roles.

The year 1970 in film involved some significant events.

In film and television, drama is a genre of narrative fiction intended to be more serious than humorous in tone. Drama of this kind is usually qualified with additional terms that specify its particular subgenre, such as "police crime drama", "political drama", "legal drama", "historical period drama", "domestic drama", "teen drama", or "comedy-drama". These terms tend to indicate a particular setting or subject-matter, or else they qualify the otherwise serious tone of a drama with elements that encourage a broader range of moods.

Carole Eastman was an American actress and screenwriter. Among her credits were screenplays for Monte Hellman's The Shooting (1967), Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces (1970), and Mike Nichols’s The Fortune (1975). She occasionally used the pseudonyms "Adrien Joyce" and "A.L. Appling".

Contents

The film tells the story of surly oil rig worker Bobby Dupea, whose rootless blue-collar existence belies his privileged youth as a piano prodigy. When Bobby learns that his father is dying, he goes home to see him, taking along his waitress girlfriend.

An oil rig is any kind of apparatus constructed for oil drilling.

In the United States, the concept of a working class remains vaguely defined, and classifying people or jobs into this class can be contentious. Economists and pollsters in the United States generally define "working class" adults as those lacking a college degree, rather than by occupation or income. Many members of the working class, as defined by academic models, are often identified in the vernacular as being middle-class, there is considerable ambiguity over the term's meaning. According to Frank Newport, "for some, working class is a more literal label; namely, an indication that one is working." Sociologists such as Dennis Gilbert and Joseph Kahl see the working class as the most populous in the United States, while other sociologists such as William Thompson, Joseph Hickey and James Henslin deem the lower middle class slightly more populous. In the class models devised by these sociologists, the working class comprises between 30% and 35% of the population, roughly the same percentages as the lower middle class. According to the class model by Dennis Gilbert, the working class comprises those between the 25th and 55th percentile of society. In 2018, 31% of Americans self described themselves as working class. Retired American adults are less likely to described themselves as "working class", regardless of the actual income or education level of the adult. Those in the working class are commonly employed in clerical, retail sales, and low-skill manual labor occupations. Low-level white-collar workers are included in this class.

Child prodigy person who, at an early age, develops one or more skills at a level far beyond the norm for their age

A child prodigy is defined in psychology research literature as a person under the age of ten who produces meaningful output in some domain to the level of an adult expert.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards, and, in 2000, was selected to be preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry.

Academy Awards American awards given annually for excellence in cinematic achievements

The Academy Awards, also officially and popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. Given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the awards are an international recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette, officially called the "Academy Award of Merit", although more commonly referred to by its nickname "Oscar". The statuette depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style.

Library of Congress (de facto) national library of the United States of America

The Library of Congress (LOC) is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress and is the de facto national library of the United States. It is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. The library is housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; it also maintains the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. The library's functions are overseen by the librarian of Congress, and its buildings are maintained by the architect of the Capitol. The Library of Congress claims to be the largest library in the world. Its "collections are universal, not limited by subject, format, or national boundary, and include research materials from all parts of the world and in more than 450 languages."

National Film Registry Selection of films for preservation in the US Library of Congress

The National Film Registry (NFR) is the United States National Film Preservation Board's (NFPB) selection of films deserving of preservation. The NFPB, established by the National Film Preservation Act of 1988, was reauthorized by acts of Congress in 1992, 1996, 2005, and again in October 2008. The NFPB's mission, to which the NFR contributes, is to ensure the survival, conservation, and increased public availability of America's film heritage. The 1996 law also created the non-profit National Film Preservation Foundation which, although affiliated with the NFPB, raises money from the private sector.

Plot

Bobby Dupea works in an oil field in Kern County, California with his friend Elton, who has a wife and a baby son. Bobby spends most of his time with his waitress girlfriend Rayette, who has dreams of singing country music; or in the company of Elton, with whom he bowls, gets drunk, and has sex with other women. Bobby has not told Elton that he is a former classical pianist who comes from an upper-class family of musicians.

Kern County, California County in California, United States

Kern County is a county in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 839,631. Its county seat is Bakersfield.

Rayette gets pregnant and Elton is arrested on an old warrant for having robbed a gas station. Bobby quits his job and goes to Los Angeles where his sister Partita, also a pianist, is making a recording. Partita tells him that their father, from whom Bobby is estranged, has suffered two strokes. She urges Bobby to return to the family home in Washington state.

Rayette threatens to kill herself if Bobby leaves her, so he reluctantly asks her along. Driving north, they pick up two women headed for Alaska, one of whom is obsessed with "filth". The four of them are thrown out of a restaurant when Bobby gets into an argument with a waitress who refuses to accommodate his meal order, which is not on the menu but is not for anything special.

Embarrassed by Rayette's lack of polish, Bobby registers her in a motel before proceeding to the family home on an island in Puget Sound. He finds Partita giving their father a haircut, but the old man seems completely oblivious to him. At dinner Bobby meets Catherine Van Oost, a young pianist engaged to his amiable brother Carl, a violinist. Despite personality differences, Catherine and Bobby are immediately attracted to each other and they later have sex in her room.

Puget Sound sound along the northwestern coast of the U.S. state of Washington

Puget Sound is a sound along the northwestern coast of the U.S. state of Washington, an inlet of the Pacific Ocean, and part of the Salish Sea. It is a complex estuarine system of interconnected marine waterways and basins, with one major and two minor connections to the open Pacific Ocean via the Strait of Juan de Fuca—Admiralty Inlet being the major connection and Deception Pass and Swinomish Channel being the minor.

Rayette runs out of money at the motel and comes to the Dupea estate unannounced. Her presence creates an awkward situation, but when pompous family friend Samia ridicules her, Bobby comes to her defense. Storming from the room in search of Catherine, he discovers his father's male nurse giving Partita a massage. Now more agitated, he picks a fight with the very strong nurse, who knocks him to the floor.

Bobby tries to persuade Catherine to go away with him, but she declines, telling him she believes he does not love himself, or anything at all. After trying to talk to his unresponsive father, Bobby leaves with Rayette, who makes a playful sexual advance that he angrily rejects. Shortly into the trip, when Rayette goes into a gas station for coffee, he gives her his wallet and abandons her, hitching a ride on a truck headed north.

Cast

Jack Nicholson American actor and filmmaker

John Joseph Nicholson is an American actor and filmmaker who has performed for over sixty years. He is known for playing a wide range of starring or supporting roles, including satirical comedy, romance, and darkly comic portrayals of anti-heroes and villainous characters. In many of his films, he has played the "eternal outsider, the sardonic drifter", someone who rebels against the social structure.

Karen Black American actress, screenwriter, singer, and songwriter

Karen Blanche Black was an American actress, screenwriter, singer, and songwriter. She rose to prominence for her work in various independent films in the 1970s, frequently portraying eccentric and offbeat characters, and subsequently established herself as a figure of New Hollywood. Her career spanned over 50 years, and includes nearly 200 credits in both independent and mainstream films. Black received numerous accolades throughout her career, including two Golden Globe Awards, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Susan Anspach stage and film actress from the United States

Susan Florence Anspach was an American stage, film and television actress, who was best known for her roles in films during the 1970s and 1980s such as Five Easy Pieces (1970), Play It Again, Sam (1972), Blume in Love (1973), Montenegro (1981), Blue Monkey (1987), and Blood Red (1989).

Music

The opening credits list the five classical piano pieces played in the film and referenced in the title. Pearl Kaufman is credited as the pianist.

Also listed are four songs sung by Tammy Wynette: "Stand by Your Man", "D-I-V-O-R-C-E", "Don't Touch Me", and "When There's a Fire in Your Heart".

Reception

Box office

According to Variety, the film earned $1.2 million in North American in 1970. [2] By 1976 the film had earned $8.9 million in North America. [3]

Critical response

The film opened to positive reviews. It holds an 87% "Certified Fresh" rating on online review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The critics' consensus states: "An important touchstone of the New Hollywood era, Five Easy Pieces is a haunting portrait of alienation that features one of Jack Nicholson's greatest performances." [4]

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars out of four: [5]

The title of Five Easy Pieces refers not to the women its hero makes along the road, for there are only three, but to a book of piano exercises he owned as a child. The film, one of the best American films, is about the distance between that boy, practicing to become a concert pianist, and the need he feels 20 years later to disguise himself as an oil-field rigger. When we sense the boy, tormented and insecure, trapped inside the adult man, Five Easy Pieces becomes a masterpiece of heartbreaking intensity.... The movie is joyously alive to the road life of its hero. We follow him through bars and bowling alleys, motels and mobile homes, and we find him rebelling against lower-middle-class values even as he embraces them. In one magical scene, he leaps from his car in a traffic jam and starts playing the piano on the truck in front of him; the scene sounds forced, described this way, but Rafelson and Nicholson never force anything, and never have to. Robert Eroica Dupea is one of the most unforgettable characters in American movies.

He named the film the best of 1970, and later added it to his "Great Movies" list. [6]

John Simon criticized Five Easy Pieces for its pretentiousness and oversimplification but said if anything saved the film from triviality, were the performances of the actors especially those of Karen Black, Lois Smith, and Billy Green Bush. [7]

Awards and nominations

The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Nicholson), and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Karen Black). Nicholson lost to George C. Scott, and was nominated several more times before winning for the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest .

List of awards and nominations received by Five Easy Pieces
AwardCategoryNomineeResult
43rd Academy Awards Best Picture Bob Rafelson and Richard WechslerNominated
Best Actor Jack Nicholson Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Karen Black Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Adrien Joyce and Bob RafelsonNominated
28th Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture - Drama Bob Rafelson and Richard WechslerNominated
Best Actor Jack NicholsonNominated
Best Director Bob RafelsonNominated
Best Supporting Actress Karen BlackWon (Tied with Maureen Stapleton for Airport )
Best Screenplay Adrien Joyce and Bob RafelsonNominated

Home media

On November 16, 1999, Columbia TriStar Home Video released the film on two-sided DVD-Video, featuring both fullscreen (4:3) and widescreen formats. [8]

Grover Crisp of Sony Pictures conducted a 4K restoration of the film, and it was screening theatrically in DCP by 2012. [9] [10]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection in November 2010 as part of the box set America Lost and Found: The BBS Story. It includes audio commentary featuring director Bob Rafelson and interior designer Toby Rafelson (originally recorded for a Criterion laserdisc); Soul Searching in "Five Easy Pieces", a 2009 video piece with Rafelson; BBStory, a 2009 documentary about the BBS era, with Rafelson, actors Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, and Ellen Burstyn, and directors Peter Bogdanovich and Henry Jaglom, among others; and audio excerpts from a 1976 AFI interview with Rafelson. [11]

On June 30, 2015, Five Easy Pieces was released as a stand-alone DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection. [12]

Chicken salad sandwich scene

A famous scene from the film takes place in a roadside restaurant where Bobby tries to get a waitress to bring him a side order of toast with his breakfast. The waitress refuses, stating that toast is not offered as a side item, despite the diner's offering a chicken salad sandwich on toast.

Bobby appeals to both logic and common sense, but the waitress adamantly refuses to break with the restaurant's policy of only giving customers what is printed in the menu. Ultimately, Bobby orders both his breakfast and the chicken salad sandwich on toast, telling the waitress to bring the sandwich to him without mayonnaise, butter, lettuce, or chicken, culminating in Bobby's responding to the waitress' incredulity at his order to "hold the chicken" with "I want you to hold it between your knees!" The waitress then indignantly orders them to leave, and Nicholson knocks the glasses of water off the table with a sweep of his arm. [13] [14]

While much of the film was shot on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, this scene was at a Denny's along Interstate 5 near Eugene, Oregon. [13] [14]

Thirty years later, Nicholson performed a scene in the movie About Schmidt that drew from this scene; it was cut from the film but is available as a Deleted Scene in the DVD release. Nicholson's character in About Schmidt, an emotionally downtrodden retiree, in contrast, humbly accepts the waitress's "no substitutions" rule.

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References

  1. "Five Easy Pieces, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  2. "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, January 6, 1971, p. 11
  3. "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, January 7, 1976, p. 44
  4. "Five Easy Pieces". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  5. Roger Ebert. "Five Easy Pieces" . Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  6. Roger Ebert, Five Easy Pieces Movie Review March 16, 2003
  7. Simon, John (1982). Reverse Angle. Crown Publishers Inc. p. 22.
  8. "Five Easy Pieces and the Loss of Sexual Innocence Come to DVD". September 1999 Headlines. TheCinemaLaser.com. September 27, 1999. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  9. "Five Easy Pieces". Park Circus. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  10. "Leading repertory cinema Film Forum to showcase Digital Cinema Packages". Film Journal International. February 10, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  11. "Five Easy Pieces". The Criterion Collection.
  12. Gary Tooze. "HD-Sensei: Five Easy Pieces [Blu-ray]". DVDBeaver.
  13. 1 2 Hawthorn, Tom (February 22, 2011). "Taking a bite out Nicholson's 'hold the chicken' legend". The Globe and Mail. Canada. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  14. 1 2 "Hold the Chicken - Five Easy Pieces movie clip (1970)". YouTube. Retrieved August 29, 2017.