- Dec 9, 2001
- Fishkill, NY
- Real Name
- Rich Gallagher
Five Easy Pieces, a film directed by Bob Rafelson and starring Jack Nicholson and Karen Black, may be the quintessential 1970s film about alienation and anti-materialism. Film critic Roger Ebert had this to say about Five Easy Pieces: "We'd had a revelation. This was the direction American movies should take: Into idiosyncratic characters, into dialogue with an ear for the vulgar and the literate, into a plot free to surprise us about the characters, into an existential ending not required to be happy." It has now been brought to Blu-ray by Criterion with an exceptional transfer courtesy of Sony.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English PCM 1.0 (Mono)
Run Time: 1 Hr. 38 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayBlu-ray Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/30/2015
The Production Rating: 5/5
I'd like a plain omelet, no potatoes, tomatoes instead, a cup of coffee and wheat toast. - Bobby Dupea
No substitutions. - Bobby's waitress
Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson) is an accomplished pianist from a well-to-do family who for some reason is working in an oil field in central California. He lives in a rented house with his girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black), a somewhat ditzy young woman who is partial to playing Tammy Wynette on her record player. Their best friends are Elton (Billy Green Bush), who works with Bobby at the oil field, and his girlfriend Stoney (Fannie Flagg). Elton and Stoney seem to be content with their blue collar lives and living in a trailer, but Bobby is searching for something better. He just hasn’t figured out what that is.
Rayette clearly is in love with Bobby, but she has trouble getting him to say that he loves her. He is a walking contradiction. At time he is gentle with her, but when they go bowling with Elton and Stoney she bowls poorly and Bobby humiliates her in front of their friends. Rayette goes out to the car to sulk, but if Bobby feels bad about what happened he gets over it immediately when he meets two female bowlers named Twinky (Marlena MacGuire) and Betty (Sally Struthers). Monogamy is not a high priority for either Bobby or Elton, and before long they are partying in their underwear with Twinky and Betty.
One day Bobby drives to L.A. to see his sister Tita (Lois Smith), who also is a pianist and is making a recording at a studio. During their meeting Tita tell him that their father is in bad shape following two strokes, and she urges Bobby to see him while he still can. He agrees and tells his sister that he will drive to their family home in the state of Washington. Bobby has not seen his father for several years, and he tells Tita that he will spend at most a week in Washington.
The middle section of Five Easy Pieces is the road trip from California to Washington. Initially Bobby plans to travel home by himself, but when Rayette cries over being left alone he shows some compassion and agrees to take her along. During the trip they come along two women whose car broke down, Palm Apodaca (Helena Kallianiotes) and Terry Grouse (Toni Basil). Palm is a cynic who says that they are headed to Alaska to get away from the filth and materialism of California. Kallianitotes, who had little or no experience as an actor, delivers several entertaining rants about her dissatisfaction with all of the "crap" in the world. In Oregon they stop at a diner, where the film's most famous scene takes place.
Later in the film we are introduced to Bobby's brother Carl (Ralph Waite), a violinist who can no longer play his instrument because of a neck injury, and his pianist girlfriend Catherine (Susan Anspach). Jack Nicholson and Karen Black received Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Five Easy Pieces was nominated for Best Picture. Director Bob Rafelson and Carole Eastman (credited as Adrian Joyce) received an Academy Award nomination for their intelligent, humorous, and insightful screenplay. Nicholson has a particularly moving scene toward then end of the film when Bobby tries to explain himself to his father. Lois Smith, Billy Green Bush, and Anspach turn in excellent performances in their supporting roles, and Helena Kallianiotes is hilarious as the dyspeptic Palm Apodaca.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
Five Easy Pieces is framed at 1.85:1 and is presented in 1080p via the AVC codec. The picture quality is precisely what you would expect from Sony, which is to say that it is nearly flawless. The picture is very sharp, with excellent detail and accurate colors. The film's grain structure is intact. Black levels are good and shadow detail is fine. It is a treat to be able to see such a wonderful representation of the outstanding cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The uncompressed monaural soundtrack is delivered in LPCM 48K, which is the only audio option (the commentary track is mono Dolby Digital). Dialogue is clear and understandable throughout, and the audio is surprisingly powerful in the scenes at the oil field. The film's music consists of four songs by Tammy Wynette, including "Stand by Your Man," and five classical piano pieces. The music sounds very good, with not a hint of distortion or other age-related problems.
There are no subtitles, which likely will make this Blu-ray a non-starter for the hearing impaired.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
The extras on this Blu-ray disc include a commentary track by Bob Rafelson and his ex-wife, interior designer Toby Rafelson. They both have interesting things to say, but the track is a bit jarring because it is apparent that they were not in the same room when it was recorded. The result is that there are sudden changes of subject, often while the same scene is being discussed. Interestingly, Rafelson sort of bemoans the fact that the best-remembered scene in Five Easy Pieces is the diner scene, which while very funny really has very little to do with the story.
"Soul Searching in Five Easy Pieces" is a 9-minute featurette which consists primarily of director Rafelson talking about the film, although Nicholson appears to explain that his actions in the diner scene arose from a real-life incident which occurred at a diner on Sunset Boulevard. Rafelson gives effusive praise to his co-writer, Carole Eastman.
"BBS: A Time for Change" is a 28-minute featurette about the production company which was started by Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steven Blauner, and Five Easy Pieces was their first production. Also appearing are film critic David Thomson and historian Douglas Brinkley.
"BBStory" is a longer (47 minutes) and more detailed look at BBS which was made in 2009. Among the participants are Rafelson, Nicholson, Peter Bogdanovich, Henry Jaglom, Karen Black, and Ellen Burstyn. Some of the well-known BBS productions are The Last Picture Show; Drive, He Said; The King of Marvin Gardens; and Hearts and Minds.
"Bob Rafelson at AFI" is audio excerpts from an interview which was conducted in 1976.
A teaser trailer and two very similar theatrical trailers are included.
Finally, there is an essay about the film by critic Kent Jones.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Five Easy Pieces is a remarkable character study which helped to usher in a new era of independent filmmaking in the 1970s. It belongs in the Blu-ray library of every serious film collector, and there is no better time to buy it than now, while Barnes and Noble is conducting its 50% off sale on Criterion releases.
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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