Five Easy Pieces
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|Five Easy Pieces|
original movie poster
|Directed by||Bob Rafelson|
|Produced by||Bob Rafelson
|Written by||Bob Rafelson
|Editing by||Christopher Holmes
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Release dates||September 12, 1970|
|Running time||96 minutes|
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 film tells the story of a surly oil rig worker, Bobby Dupea, whose seemingly 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, bringing along his pregnant girlfriend, Rayette (Black), a waitress. Nicholson and Black were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances.
Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson) works in a California oil field (shot in and around the city of Taft in the San Joaquin Valley) with his friend Elton (Billy "Green" Bush), who has a wife and baby son. Most of Bobby's time is spent with his waitress girlfriend, Rayette (Karen Black), 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 evidently not told anyone that he is a former classical pianist who comes from an eccentric family of musicians.
When Rayette becomes pregnant and his friend Elton is arrested for having robbed a gas station a year earlier, Bobby quits his job and leaves for Los Angeles where his sister, Partita (Lois Smith), also a pianist, is making a recording. Partita informs him that their father, from whom he is estranged, has suffered two strokes. She urges him to return to the family home in Washington state.
As Rayette has threatened to kill herself if Bobby leaves her, he very reluctantly asks her along. Driving north, they pick up two women headed for Alaska, one of whom is obsessed about "filth". The four of them are thrown out of a restaurant when he gets into an argument with a waitress who refuses to accommodate his special order. Reaching his destination, Bobby, embarrassed by Rayette's lack of polish, registers her in a motel before proceeding to his 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, he meets Catherine Van Oost (Susan Anspach), a young pianist engaged to his brother, Carl (Ralph Waite), a violinist. Despite personality differences, Catherine and Robert, the name she calls him, become attracted and make love in her room.
Rayette becomes bored at the motel and comes to the Dupea estate unannounced. Her presence creates an awkward situation, but when Samia, a pompous family friend, ridicules Rayette, Robert gives a fiery defense of her. Storming from the room in search of Catherine, he discovers his father's male nurse giving Partita a massage. Now more agitated, Robert picks a senseless fight and is quickly knocked to the floor.
He tries to persuade Catherine to go away with him, but she declines, believing Robert does not love himself or anything at all. After trying to talk to his unresponsive father, Robert leaves with Rayette, who makes a playful sexual advance that he angrily rejects. When Rayette goes in for some coffee at a gas station, he gives her his wallet and then abandons her, hitching a ride on a truck headed north.
- Jack Nicholson as Robert Eroica Dupea
- Karen Black as Rayette Dipesto
- Susan Anspach as Catherine Van Oost
- Lois Smith as Partita Dupea
- Ralph Waite as Carl Fidelio Dupea
- Billy "Green" Bush as Elton
- Irene Dailey as Samia Glavia
- Toni Basil as Terry Grouse
- Helena Kallianiotes as Palm Apodaca
- William Challee as Nicholas Dupea
- John Ryan as Spicer
- Fannie Flagg as Stoney
- Marlena MacGuire as Twinky
- Sally Ann Struthers as Shirley "Betty"
- Lorna Thayer as Waitress
- Richard Stahl as Recording Engineer
The five classical piano pieces played in the film and referenced in the title are:
- Frédéric Chopin: Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49, played by Bobby on the back of a moving truck.
- Johann Sebastian Bach: Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, BWV 903, played by Bobby's sister, Partita, in a recording studio.
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major, K. 271, played by Bobby's brother, Carl, and Catherine upon Bobby's arrival at the house.
- Chopin: Prelude in E minor, Op. 28, No. 4, played by Bobby for Catherine.
- Mozart: Fantasy in D minor, K. 397.
||This section possibly contains original research. (April 2013)|
The film opened to positive reviews and huge business at the box office and holds an 86% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 35 reviews. It immediately became the movie that Bob Rafelson would be known for. He worked before on counterculture comedy, as in The Monkees TV show and their cult film Head. In making Five Easy Pieces, he considered the other side of youth, in this case, those that left the good life behind and were not content.
This movie also got Jack Nicholson noticed in Hollywood following his acclaimed but brief role in Easy Rider. He was quickly approached to play modern day rebels with or without a conscience. In particular, Nicholson gained attention for the scene where he fights with a waitress over an omelet, toast, and a chicken salad sandwich, ultimately suggesting that she hold the chicken "between her knees." The actor worked with Rafelson on four more movies over the next 26 years.
According to Variety, the film earned $1.2 million in North American rentals in 1970.
The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Karen Black), Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay. Nicholson lost to George C. Scott, but was nominated several times before getting the Award for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
|43rd Academy Awards||Best Picture||Bob Rafelson and Richard Wechsler||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Jack Nicholson||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Karen Black||Nominated|
|Best Original Screenplay||Carole Eastman and Bob Rafelson||Nominated|
|28th Golden Globe Awards||Best Motion Picture - Drama||Bob Rafelson and Richard Wechsler||Nominated|
|Best Actor||Jack Nicholson||Nominated|
|Best Director||Bob Rafelson||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actress||Karen Black||Won (Tied with Maureen Stapleton for Airport)|
|Best Screenplay||Carole Eastman and Bob Rafelson||Nominated|
The film was released on DVD 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, 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.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Five Easy Pieces|
- Five Easy Pieces at the Internet Movie Database
- Five Easy Pieces at AllMovie
- Five Easy Pieces at Box Office Mojo
- Five Easy Pieces at Rotten Tomatoes
- Roger Ebert on Five Easy Pieces
- Bright Lights Film Journal essay
- Time magazine interview with screenwriter Carol Eastman
- Liner notes from the original Criterion Laserdisc
- "Five Easy Pieces turns 40" – Los Angeles Times
- Criterion Collection Essay by Kent Jones
- Criterion Collection Essay by Michael Dare
- Criterion Collection Essay by J. Hoberman