The Rear-View Mirror: Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!It must sound incredible to ears younger than mine, but there was a time when Jack Nicholson didn’t let his freak flag fly in every movie he was in. The Shining, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Witches of Eastwick will all make the top of any crazy poll because Jack eventually goes full Nicholson in all of them. I really don’t mind those movies, but there are other movies starring him, such as Five Easy Pieces, which use him not as a purring kitten exactly, but he brings a wonderfully layered performance to the movie.

So his Bobby Dupea could have been a very good classical pianist, but he goes and works in an oil field, hard hat, chequered shirt and everything. He does exactly what he wants, and that might lead to scuffles and even tears, but it is miles away from any Daryl Van Horne or Jack Torrance. Dupea’s girlfriend is not some svelte cellist, but a waitress with really big hair, played by Karen Black. He could live the life he wants, but there is his family who calls him to his dad’s deathbed.

Bobby doesn’t take crap from anyone. There is that famous diner scene where the waitress tells him she can’t get him his order, and so he orders other things that contain what he wants, and tells her to drop anything he doesn’t want. When she still refuses, he gets angry. Bobby gives you one out – if you don’t take it, you’re in trouble. It is fascinating to watch him (Nicholson as well as Dupea), so he is always surrounded by (mostly female) company, but in essence, he is a loner. At some point, you will inevitably disappoint him. It must be exhausting to be him, alienating people all the time, but is there any other way for him to live?

The Rear-View Mirror will return every Friday, looking further and further into the past. Fasten your seatbelts: it may just be a bumpy ride.

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