A sometimes goofy but mostly poignant character study about an undecided and unsatisfied man (Jack Nicholson) drifting through life and barely surviving his emotions. I would classify it in the ‘angry young man’ category of films (ala Rebel Without a Cause), but what surprised me was how realistic were the portrayals of both Nicholson’s man who can’t commit to anything (a relationship, lifestyle, social class, home) and Karen Black’s portrayal of a deeply insecure woman who can’t leave this chaotic man who honestly doesn’t deserve her. I saw the worst of myself in Nicholson’s self-obsessed character, and that scared me. There are also many amusing side characters who come and go. I particularly enjoyed the hitchhiker (played by Helena Kallianiotes) who couldn’t stop ranting about ‘human filth.’ There are small moments when the actors overdo it and bubble over into 70’s camp, but the magic really happens when nothing is being said and the director (Bob Rafelson) lingers on our main character and we see him cycling through his emotions without a clear resolution. I was also surprisingly moved (disturbed?) by the ending and the pathetic helplessness with which the main character makes his final decision. If you’re a fan of 70s cinema, Jack Nicholson, and offbeat psychological character studies, definitely check this one out.
Five Easy Pieces (1970) – Film Review