Bob Rafelson’s Five Easy Pieces (1970) can be quickly summarized as an intensive character study film that gave Jack Nicholson’s debut entrance into New Hollywood. The film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay. The basic plot line of the film takes the stand point of an emotionally undernourished man, Robert Eroica Dupea (Jack Nicholson) who quits his current employment to revisit his dying father. As the film progresses the viewer witnesses Robert’s profession as an adult (oil rigger) is a “dirtied” reflection of his past major interest as growing up to become a pianist. His ongoing outbreaks and his moody persona is clear of the psychological instability through the “cold shoulder” he often gives his wife. Robert’s full name is also ironically named after Beethoven’s Third Symphony.
Five Easy Pieces has been often cited for the “chicken salad” scene between Jack Nicholson and Lorna Thayer. In this unorthodox scene Robert asks the waitress for a side order of toast, she interjects clearly stating it is against diner policy for a side order of that essence. He than tells her he would like chicken, she then asks how the chicken should be served and he responds “Between your knees”.
Characteristic of New Hollywood film itself, this film shows a great deal of realism. In many scenes Robert is viewed on his oil site, which in Old Hollywood would be impossible due to the late introduction of location shooting. Ironically the scene that would be deemed as the “climax of realism” where Robert hops onto the back of a pickup truck and plays the piano, would in fact be seen as unrealistic in today’s standpoint.
A clip from the movie:
(Nicholson barks back at a dog during on going traffic)