Five Easy Pieces


We think we have stumbled on a contender for Road Movie no1.

Jack Nicholson’s brilliant perfromance in Five Easy Pieces has to rate as one of the best portrayals of the road-dwelling drifter we have ever seen.

It’s easy to think, when you have a particular  interest in internally combusted Detroit steel, that road movies should all be about the car  (or the bike) itself . These are after all the vehicles through which the protagonists of this genre explore their fate. But in this brilliantly compelling story  the road itself is the sustained metaphor for the long journey home.

In fact Five Easy Pieces, which was directed by Bob Rafelson and released to critical acclaim in 1970, isn’t full of particularly interesting or classic American cars at all – but there’s something in the way the film is put together that suggests the car’s centrality to things.

The visuals have that captured-in-Kodachrome, rough hewn quality of the period and the performances are stark and truthful. You can almost taste the whiskey on Jack’s breathe and the dusty motel rooms where he beds down.

The more Nicholson’s character  (the son of a relatively wealthy Washington family) drifts  and takes to the road with his put-upon girl and takes a series of dead end blue collar jobs, the more estranged from himself he becomes.

The road in Five Easy Pieces ultimately becomes a metaphor for the emotional uncertainty of life itself – a conduit of escape that is apparently endless but ultimately desolate. Despite this downbeat denoument, we reckon it’ll  make you yearn for that blacktop-crusted way to oblivion.