5 Easy Pieces

May 17, 2010

Five Easy Pieces, which will be playing at the Regent Square Theater from Monday, May 17th through Thursday May 20th, is a film in which a young Jack Nicholson, in his typical fashion, plays a character who is miserable and takes his angst out on other people, somehow convincing them to accept it. He is just Ok enough of a guy to get away with it.

The movie takes place in the 1970’s, a time where the world is predominantly shades of orange and brown, and everything looks as though it tastes like Lipton Tea.  People have names like Elton, Twinky, Rayette, and Spicer. Waitresses wear cute one-piece peach colored collared dresses. The classier girls wear crocheted dresses.

Waitress car ride

Bobby (Jack Nicholson) is a musical prodigy who has given up the piano in favor of working on an oil rig and hanging around the sort of women who numbly chew gum with open mouths.  The point his girlfriend rightly makes about him is that he is “never satisfied.’ The movie starts by showing scenes form Bobby’s life, including drinking whiskey on the commute to work, overreacting to his girlfriend’s lack of bowling skills, and fraternization with a dipsy, curly-haired, squealy woman.  He is unhappy, yet reveling in his unhappiness.

About halfway through the movie, Bobby goes to his family’s home on a Puget Sound island to see his ailing father. There he falls in love with a woman who is more sophisticated than he is accustomed to. However, he is still able to win her over by knocking all the perfumes off her dresser, screaming at her, and slamming her door. Apparently, violent behavior was considered seductive in the 1970’s.

Jack Nicholson Pugent Sound Young Jack Nicholson

The most striking moment in the film is at a dinner party at his family’s house. An obnoxious, cold, pedantic woman is talking about aggression. She treats Bobby’s girlfriend not as a person, but as an example that typifies a class. Bobby gets upset and defends his girlfriend’s honor (for once). It is only at this scene that we can understand why he left his family and a life of social preeminence. It is because he would have to be pleasant to such bombastic egotists. He prefers the directness, sincerity, and humility of people who don’t think that they know everything.

One of the most important aspects of intelligence is the ability to recognize bullshit. This is an aspect that Bobby has in abundance. It causes him to suffer, to alienate people, and it thwarts his ambitions, but it also allows him to do and say whatever he wants, regardless of the repercussions.


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