Five Easy Pieces (15)

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The Independent Culture

Five Easy Pieces, made in 1970, is thoughtful, complex and boasts one of Jack Nicholson's greatest performances as the misfit Bobby Dupea.

This was Nicholson before his star persona was fully set. Alongside his trademark brashness, there is a vulnerability and uncertainty here that you don't find in his later performances. In the early scenes, he is a blue-collar jack the lad, working on an oil rig, picking up women at the bowling alley and treating his waitress girlfriend (Karen Black) with contempt. Only when we see him playing an upright piano on the back of a truck, during an early morning traffic jam, do we realise he is not the working-class everyman he seems to be. The screenplay, by Carole Eastman and Rafelson, deals in subtle and insightful fashion with class, family ties and the burden of adult responsibility. Neither Rafelson nor Nicholson try to gild the story. For all his charm and charisma, Dupea is full of self-loathing and can't escape his own delinquent personality.