Five Easy Pieces

1970

Five Easy Pieces

Critics Consensus

An important touchstone of the New Hollywood era, Five Easy Pieces is a haunting portrait of alienation that features one of Jack Nicholson's greatest performances.

88%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 50

84%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 13,122
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Movie Info

A disaffected man seeks a sense of identity in one of the key films of Hollywood's 1970s New Wave. Once a promising pianist from a family of classical musicians, Bobby Eroica Dupea (Jack Nicholson, in his first major starring role) leads a blue-collar life as an oil rigger, living with needy waitress girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black) and bowling with their friends Elton (Billy "Green" Bush) and Stoney (Fannie Flagg). Feeling suffocated by responsibilities, Bobby seeks out his sister, Tita (Lois Smith), and, discovering that his father is gravely ill, he reluctantly heads back to the patrician family compound in Puget Sound with a pregnant Rayette in tow. After a road trip featuring a harangue from hitchhiker Palm (Helena Kallianiotes) about filth, and Bobby's ill-fated attempt to make a menu substitution in a diner, he tucks Rayette away in a motel before heading to the house. There Bobby seduces his uptight brother Carl's cultured fiancée, Catherine (Susan Anspach), but Rayette shows up unexpectedly. As Rayette's crassness collides with the snobbery of the Dupea circle, Bobby loses patience with both sides. After trying to reconcile with his mute father, Bobby departs, unwilling to give in to either destiny. Director Bob Rafelson and screenwriter Adrien Joyce (aka Carole Eastman) used the creative control afforded by the low budget to craft a European-influenced character study, catching a cultural mood of anomie and resentment as it was embodied in Bobby. Neither older generation nor hippie, Bobby fits in nowhere, and his desire for independence conflicts with his emotional emptiness. Nicholson's nuanced performance of simmering frustration resonated with 1970 audiences caught between Nixon's "silent majority" and the troubled counterculture; a substantial hit, Five Easy Pieces was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor, and established Nicholson as a star. Offering no "easy" answers to Bobby's existential crisis, Five Easy Pieces is one of the pre-eminent films in the early-'70s cycle of alienated American art movies, as even the fantasy of rebellion is reduced to merely running away. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

Cast

Jack Nicholson
as Robert Dupea
Karen Black
as Rayette Dipesto
Susan Anspach
as Catherine Van Ost
Ralph Waite
as Carl Dupea
Lois Smith
as Partita Dupea
Toni Basil
as Terry Grouse
Lorna Thayer
as Waitress
Richard Stahl
as Recording Engineer
Helena Kallianiotes
as Palm Apodaca
Irene Daly
as Samia Glavia
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News & Interviews for Five Easy Pieces

Critic Reviews for Five Easy Pieces

All Critics (50) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (44) | Rotten (6)

  • If the function of art is to help an audience feel less alone, then Five Easy Pieces succeeds beautifully.

    Mar 4, 2019 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • A very modern film. Elliptical, absurdist, harshly humorous, convulsively lyrical.

    Nov 17, 2017 | Full Review…
  • The flaws of this acutely self-conscious 1970 road picture grow more obvious with every passing year, but so does its passion and eloquence.

    Jul 18, 2014
  • The movie has more anger than it knows what to do with; that's its fascination and its weakness, too.

    Jun 16, 2014

    David Denby

    New Yorker
    Top Critic
  • This superbly composed film comes as close to perfection as it gets.

    Jun 16, 2014 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Nicholson makes it all go. He proves he is more than a "character actor" with many scenes, especially the confrontation with his father.

    Jan 18, 2013 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Five Easy Pieces

  • May 29, 2016
    This movie is considered a classic for a reason. Jack Nicholson, in one of his earliest big roles, stars as Robert Dupea, a former piano prodigy who left his wealthy family for a simpler life. This is prime character study material, folks. The story isn't as important as how Nicholson's character handles the story, and he handles it well. While it has a slow start, Five Easy Pieces is well worth the patience you put into it. Learning about Robert - the life he left behind, the life he lives today, his moral standings and troubles - is incredibly rewarding. It's also a film which offers debate: did Robert make the right choice when he left his family? Is his morality worth his happiness? If you enjoy classic movies and/or Nicholson, go find this movie. I promise it's worth your time.
    Ben B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 21, 2013
    With the passing of Karen Black, I thought it was appropriate to revisit Five Easy Pieces. This is the Nicholson classic that people know for the "toast" scene but little else. It is a shame because there is a lot to mine here.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 28, 2012
    I wonder if anyone ever remembers this film? Jack Nicholson gives one of his finest performances as Bobby Dupea. A man who's got a talent as a pianist yet is unhappy with his blue-collar life. Dupea's gets word from his sister Partita Dupea (Lois Smith) who is also a pianist, their father is dying. So Dupea and his girlfriend Rayette Dipesto (Karen Black) take a road trip down to see him. As the movie progresses it's pretty interesting who Bobby and Rayette meet along the way. By the time Dupea reaches his destination, I was interested with the rest of the people who he hasn't seen in a long time and those who hasn't recognized. There is even an attractive woman who gives him signs of attraction. She's smart though as to not make it look obvious but Dupea knows what's going on. The final scene of the movie was pretty sad but I guess not all movies end on a satisfying ending. Just that people need to move on. Such is life.
    Brian R Super Reviewer
  • Oct 17, 2011
    Love the Tammy Wynette/Classical music soundtrack. Especially love the scene where Elton's wife is glued to the small staticy tv screen watching Frank Capra's "You Can't Take It With You".
    Graham J Super Reviewer

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