Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Directed By – Bob Rafelson

Screenplay By – Carole Eastman

Cinematography By – Laszlo Kovacs

Starring Jack Nicholson

98 min.

I watched this movie because of Jack Nicholson. I’ll watch anything with Jack in it, and I especially like to watch young Jack because he was already old Jack by the time I was born, so watching young Jack is simply fantastic for me. After finishing my viewing I was pretty disappointed by Five Easy Pieces. One, the title kills me! In what is probably the best scene of the movie Jack’s character plays a beautiful piece on the piano and says he choose that one because it was the easiest one he could think of. Once he says this line I looked back and including the piece mentioned above could only count four pieces total played by his character (1. on the back of the truck 2. on the piano in his sister’s recording session 3. on an air piano at the dinner table 4. the easiest piece he could think of). Maybe I’m missing one and if anyone ever reads this that has seen this movie and knows of the fifth piece and shares it with me I’ll be much more pleased with this movie, but for now I am displeased and have no plans of rewatching this movie anytime soon.

Second, the story and pacing is lackluster. On a first viewing any modern audience will have a hard time keeping still. The pacing never takes off and the story doesn’t go where I would have liked it to. As it turns out, that might be the point of the movie. As a friend told me and I completely agree, the point of the movie is unrealized potential. Here is Jack’s character, a great pianist, and yet he does everything he can to not play piano. Essentially that is how the pacing of the movie works too. The movie has all of this potential to overwhelm the audience with great music performed on screen by characters who are passionate and brilliant, yet the music is always being made behind closed doors. The characters’ passion and brilliance seem to be locked behind those same doors. The one time we do get to hear and see a full piece played we are told it was the easiest one the character could think of, an insult coming from a far advanced player. Personally this idea of the movie and the character being about unrealized potential has made the movie way more interesting, and therefore better, for me.

If you want to see young Jack, Five Easy Pieces will deliver on that, but for a modern audience this one will probably be hard to get through.


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