This film forces existential analysis because Bobbyâ??s character is so obviously and painfully conflicted. His actions reveal intelligence, along with the requisite anti-heroic characteristics of privilege, superiority and arrogance. Despite his philandering ways, he also reveals a moral awareness and complexity, demonstrated by his decision to see his father and taking Rayette along for the trip. These aspects create an expectation for psychological understanding, compelling the viewer to attach motivation or meaning to his actions.
Bobbyâ??s romantic relationships are a manifestation of his internal conflict. He knows Rayette is uneducated and her intelligence level is questionable. He treats her abominably, if not abusively, but fundamentally respects her qualities (at least when juxtaposed with the values of his upbringing). His regard is notably revealed in his defense of her character and humanity in the parlor scene. His connection with his brotherâ??s girlfriend is unsurprising because of his womanizing tendencies: The element of interest is that Bobby seemingly desires to pursue a deeper relationship with Catherine. She is Rayetteâ??s opposite, Bobbyâ??s mirror, and a necessary manifestation of his internal conflict: She is never an honest romantic interest. Is his a universal or individual conflict? Is it attributable to privileged socio-economic position or a pervasive post-modern condition?
What aches in this film is Bobbyâ??s awareness of the conflict, but the inability to dismiss or resolve it. Various familiar literary characters abound with possible resolutions: Camusâ?? Mersault attaches no meaning to action; Shakespeareâ??s Prince Hal â??slums it,â?? in preparation for his greater station; Self-destructive, Bukowskian characters create their own brand of misery and adversity, meanwhile forging a personal mythos and truth. Yet, when things inevitably â??go badâ?? for Bobby, he simply escapes, anything to negate or avoid performing those five easy pieces.
The original, scripted ending involved a car crash, proving fatal for Bobby, but not Rayette. This ending forces a predictable and poetic resolution, which was replaced by the cameraâ??s distant observation of the gas station. Instead, Bobbyâ??s departure implies the repetition of his Sisyphean cycle, thereby inflicting a haunting ambiguity, emotional hollowness and pervasive meaninglessness to the filmâ??s conclusion. A bleak and nightmarish American vision!