Five Easy Pieces

Last updated

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
98 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Rayette threatens to kill herself if Bobby leaves her, so he reluctantly asks her along. Driving north, they pick up two stranded gay women headed for Alaska, Terry and Palm. The latter launches into a memorable backseat monologue, about environmental "filth" and "crap" (consumerism). The four are thrown out of a restaurant after Bobby gets into a sarcastic argument with an obstinate waitress who refuses to accommodate his meal order because toast is not on its menu.

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.

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, Rayette goes into a diner for coffee while stopped for gas, he gives her his wallet and abandons her, hitching a ride on a truck headed north.

Cast

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 America 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, describing it as “one of the best American films”, one that “becomes a masterpiece of heartbreaking intensity” as it develops its lead character’s arc. Ebert called Bobby Dupea “one of the most unforgettable characters in American movies.“ [5] Ebert named the film the best of 1970, and later added it to his "Great Movies" series. [6]

John Simon criticized Five Easy Pieces for its pretentiousness and oversimplification but said if anything saved the film from triviality, it was the performances, 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.

Related Research Articles

<i>Easy Rider</i> 1969 film by Dennis Hopper

Easy Rider is a 1969 American independent road drama film written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern, produced by Fonda, and directed by Hopper. Fonda and Hopper play two bikers who travel through the American Southwest and South, carrying the proceeds from a cocaine deal. The success of Easy Rider helped spark the New Hollywood era of filmmaking during the early 1970s.

<i>The Last Picture Show</i> 1971 film by Peter Bogdanovich

The Last Picture Show is a 1971 American drama film directed and co-written by Peter Bogdanovich, adapted from a semi-autobiographical 1966 novel The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry.

<i>As Good as It Gets</i> 1997 American romantic comedy film directed by James L. Brooks

As Good as It Gets is a 1997 American romantic comedy film directed by James L. Brooks, who co-wrote it with Mark Andrus. The film stars Jack Nicholson as a misanthropic and obsessive-compulsive novelist, Helen Hunt as a single mother with a chronically ill son, and Greg Kinnear as a homosexual artist. The paintings were created for the film by New York artist Billy Sullivan.

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 studio and independent films in the 1970s, frequently portraying eccentric and offbeat characters, and 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.

<i>About Schmidt</i> 2002 American comedy-drama film directed by Alexander Payne

About Schmidt is a 2002 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Alexander Payne, produced by Michael Besman, Harry Gittes and Rachael Horovitz, co-written by Jim Taylor with music by Rolfe Kent and starring Jack Nicholson in the title role. The film also stars Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney and Kathy Bates. It is very loosely based on the 1996 novel of the same title by Louis Begley. About Schmidt was theatrically released on December 13, 2002 by New Line Cinema. The film was both a commercial and a critical success and it earned $105,834,556 on a $30 million budget. About Schmidt was released on DVD and VHS formats. It was released on Blu-ray for the first time on February 3, 2015.

<i>Head</i> (film) 1968 psychedelic adventure comedy film directed by Bob Rafelson

Head is a 1968 American satirical musical adventure film written and produced by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson, directed by Rafelson, starring television rock group The Monkees, and distributed by Columbia Pictures.

Lorna Thayer was an American character actress.

<i>Blood and Wine</i> 1996 film by Bob Rafelson

Blood and Wine is a 1996 American neo-noir thriller film directed by Bob Rafelson and starring Jack Nicholson, Stephen Dorff, Jennifer Lopez, Judy Davis, and Michael Caine. The screenplay was written by Nick Villiers and Alison Cross. Rafelson has stated that the film forms the final part of his unofficial trilogy with Nicholson, with whom he made Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens in the 1970s.

<i>The King of Marvin Gardens</i> 1972 film by Bob Rafelson

The King of Marvin Gardens is a 1972 American drama film. It stars Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn and Scatman Crothers. It is one of several collaborations between Nicholson and director Bob Rafelson. The majority of the film is set in a wintry Atlantic City, New Jersey, with cinematography by László Kovács.

Susan Anspach American actress

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).

Berton "Bert" Jerome Schneider was an American film and television producer.

Raybert Productions was a production company that operated in the 1960s, founded by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider. Its principal works were the situation comedy The Monkees, and the 1969 movie Easy Rider. Raybert was also the predecessor to BBS Productions, a New Hollywood production company founded by Rafelson, Schneider, and Schneider’s childhood friend Stephen Blauner. BBS Productions' best known film is The Last Picture Show.

<i>Easy Riders, Raging Bulls</i> Book by Peter Biskind

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood is a book by Peter Biskind, published by Simon & Schuster in 1998. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is about the 1970s Hollywood, a period of American film known for the production of such films such as The Godfather,The Godfather Part II,Chinatown,Taxi Driver,Jaws,Star Wars,The Exorcist, and The Last Picture Show. The title is taken from films which bookend the era: Easy Rider (1969) and Raging Bull (1980). The book follows Hollywood on the brink of the Vietnam War, when a group of young Hollywood film directors known as the "movie brats" are making their names. It begins in the 1960s and ends in the 1980s.

Bob Rafelson American film director

Robert Rafelson is an American film director, writer and producer. He is regarded as one of the founders of the New Hollywood movement in the 1970s. Among his best-known films are Five Easy Pieces (1970), The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981). He was also one of the creators of the pop group and TV series The Monkees with Raybert/BBS Productions partner Bert Schneider. His first wife was the production designer Toby Carr Rafelson. His eldest son is songwriter Peter Rafelson, who co-wrote the hit song "Open Your Heart" for Madonna.

<i>A Safe Place</i> 1971 film by Henry Jaglom

A Safe Place is a 1971 American drama film written and directed by Henry Jaglom and starring Tuesday Weld, Orson Welles, and Jack Nicholson.

<i>Man Trouble</i> 1992 film by Bob Rafelson

Man Trouble is a 1992 romantic comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Ellen Barkin. It was directed by Bob Rafelson and written by Carole Eastman, who together had been responsible for 1970's Five Easy Pieces.

The 36th New York Film Critics Circle Awards, honored the best filmmaking of 1970.

Jack Nicholson American actor and filmmaker

John Joseph Nicholson is an American retired actor and filmmaker whose career spanned more than 60 years. He is known for having played a wide range of starring or supporting roles, including comedy, romance, and darkly comic portrayals of anti-heroes and villainous characters. In many of his films, he played the "eternal outsider, the sardonic drifter", someone who rebels against the social structure.

Helena Kallianiotes American film actress

Helena Kallianiotes is a Greek-American film actress. In 1973, she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture for her role as Jackie Burdette in Kansas City Bomber.

Jack Nicholson filmography List article of movies with actor Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson is an American actor, director, producer, and screenwriter who made his film debut in The Cry Baby Killer (1958). Nicholson is regarded as one of the greatest actors of all time. He is also one of the most critically acclaimed: his 12 Academy Award nominations make him the most nominated male actor in the Academy's history. He is also a Kennedy Center Honoree and a recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award, the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award, and the Stanislavsky Award.

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.