I like the bookends of this film. it begins with Captain America feeding a money-filled tube into the gas tank of his chopper, which is painted to look like the American flag. The metaphor is obvious after a bit of thought: fucking the flag with money, a clever, hippie criticism of what they saw as the American descent. And starting with Nicholson's "they hate you for your freedom" monologue, the film begins to assume a direction that was lacking during the first hour. In contrast to Beach Blanket Bingo, which came out four years earlier and attempted to reach the youth of the sixties, it is easy to see how this film became the anthem of a generation.
But over thirty years later, its themes and plot prove not to be transcendent. I think of Casablanca and Annie Hall, which have stood the test of time and play well today, and Easy Rider doesn't rise to that status. I think this is because it's rooted in anger, in a binary view of hippie culture versus mainstream culture, and for these filmmakers, the mainstream culture is pure, unadulterated, anti-egalitarian evil, in contrast to the embodiment of freedom that is hippies' ability to smoke grass, drop acid, fuck, and just drive, man.
Even within the context of filmmaking and story construction, Easy Rider, divorced from the themes of its plot, leaves something to be desired. Much of the middle hour is composed of riding montages, which quickly become sixties music videos and do little to advance the plot. I understand that part of the point is that freedom means freedom from the traditional narrative structure, but I found myself wishing I could fast forward but afraid I'd miss the reason for this film's canonical status.
I didn't fast forward; I did watch all of it, and I was disappointed.