FIVE EASY PIECES
Review by Gordon Justesen
Nicholson, Karen Black, Susan Anspach
Director: Bob Rafelson
Audio: PCM Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: June 30, 2015
ďIím fine...Iím fine...Iím fine.Ē
Like many, I had only knew of Five Easy Pieces because of a famous diner scene in which Jack Nicholson gave a hint to the iconic actor he would eventually become. His first major starring role following his breakout supporting turn in Easy Rider the previous year, Nicholson was truly given a great deal to work with in terms of delivering a showcase piece of work. The film itself, from director Bob Rafelson, is indeed one of the pivotal character studies to emerge from the early 70s.
He plays Bobby Dupea, a man wallowing in what can clearly be seen a near-meaningless life. Part of a most intellectual family, Bobby was at one point a gifted piano prodigy. Now he resides in California working in an oil field, and doing nothing much else except palling around with co-worker Elton (Billy ďGreenĒ Bush) and engaging in a not too happy relationship with waitress Rayette (Karen Black), who is pregnant.
Eventually, some unforseen events develop. Elton runs afoul of the law, and Bobby receives word that his father has suffered a stroke. He then makes a decision to quit his job and take a break from life in general, proceeding to drive up north to visit the family he hasnít spoken to in quite some time, towing along hapless Rayette.
Once placed back in his family environment, Bobby reveals himself to be a much different person. He never had the best relationship with his father, and amidst all of the frustration that lingers inside him, he does seem to want to make amends with him. It results in a most emotional moment when heís alone with his father for the first time in who knows how long.
Though many remember the film for its famous diner scene, where Nicholson has it with a waitress who wonít give him the precise food order he wants because itís simply not on the menu, what stayed with me most in Five Easy Pieces was the final scene. Itís one of those moments that, as a first time viewer, has a tremendous potent effect on you, and surprised me so much that I had to rewind it and see it again. It makes you wish more movies these days would take chances and end such a way.
Five Easy Pieces is as poignant and personal as a character study can get. Rafelson and Nicholson are a director and actor combo that feels absolutely perfect, as the two would collaborate on later pictures including the highly underrated Blood and Wine. And for die hard fans of Jack, this is a film that you canít afford to miss out on, if you havenít see it already!
Criterionís Blu-ray boasts one of the most phenomenal presentations Iíve ever seen for a 1970s release! The image detail, especially in the scenes set on the California oil field, are nothing short of riveting in detail and depth. Colors are extremely impressive, too! It represents the very illustrations of how films from this era should be handled in this format, which is something Criterion excels at, of course.
This is a serviceable PCM mono mix of a film that is first and foremost dialogue driven. The delivery of the spoken words is handled most terrifically. Thatís about all I can say since, again, thatís what is front and center here. At the same time, itís still the best sounding presentation youíll ever hear for this release.
Great supplements in true Criterion fashion. We get a commentary with director Bob Rafelson and interior designer Toby Rafelson, as well as documentaries ďSoul Searching in Five Easy PiecesĒ, an interview piece with Rafelson, as well as ďBBS StoryĒ, which focuses on the production company behind the film, an additional documentary about BBS featuring critic David Thomson and historian Douglas Brinkley. Lastly, thereís an audio AFI interview with Rafelson and Trailers, as well as an insert booklet featuring an essay by critic Kent Jones.
Five Easy Pieces is a landmark in both 1970s filmmaking and Jack Nicholsonís acting career. The film has been given a most terrific presentation courtesy of Criterion, which is bound to please fans of this film, in addition to first time viewers!