Five Easy Pieces

Five Easy Pieces is a 1970 American drama film written by Carole Eastman (as Adrien Joyce) and Bob Rafelson, and directed by Rafelson. The film stars Jack Nicholson, with Karen Black, Susan Anspach, Ralph Waite, and Sally Struthers in supporting roles.

The film tells the story of surly oil rig worker Bobby Dupea, whose rootless blue-collar existence belies his privileged youth as a piano prodigy. When Bobby learns that his father is dying, he goes home to see him, taking along his waitress girlfriend.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards, and, in 2000, was selected to be preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry.

Five Easy Pieces
Five easy pieces
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBob Rafelson
Produced by
  • Bob Rafelson
  • Richard Wechsler
Screenplay byAdrien Joyce
Story by
  • Bob Rafelson
  • Adrien Joyce
Starring
CinematographyLászló Kovács
Edited by
  • Christopher Holmes
  • Gerald Shepard
Production
company
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
September 12, 1970
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$1.6 million
Box office$18.1 million[1]

Plot

Bobby Dupea works in an oil field in Kern County, California with his friend Elton, who has a wife and a baby son. Bobby spends most of his time with his waitress girlfriend Rayette, who has dreams of singing country music; or in the company of Elton, with whom he bowls, gets drunk, and has sex with other women. Bobby has not told Elton that he is a former classical pianist who comes from a family of musicians.

Rayette gets pregnant and Elton is arrested for having robbed a gas station. Bobby quits his job and goes to Los Angeles where his sister Partita, also a pianist, is making a recording. Partita tells him that their father, from whom Bobby is estranged, has suffered two strokes. She urges Bobby to return to the family home in Washington state.

Rayette threatens to kill herself if Bobby leaves her, so he reluctantly asks her along. Driving north, they pick up two women headed for Alaska, one of whom is obsessed with "filth". The four of them are thrown out of a restaurant when Bobby gets into an argument with a waitress who refuses to accommodate his special order.

Embarrassed by Rayette's lack of polish, Bobby registers her in a motel before proceeding to the family home on an island in Puget Sound. He finds Partita giving their father a haircut, but the old man seems completely oblivious to him. At dinner Bobby meets Catherine Van Oost, a young pianist engaged to his brother Carl, a violinist. Despite personality differences, Catherine and Bobby are immediately attracted to each other and have sex in her room.

Rayette runs out of money at the motel and comes to the Dupea estate unannounced. Her presence creates an awkward situation, but when pompous family friend Samia ridicules her, Bobby comes to her defense. Storming from the room in search of Catherine, he discovers his father's male nurse giving Partita a massage. Now more agitated, he picks a fight with the nurse, who knocks him to the floor.

Bobby tries to persuade Catherine to go away with him, but she declines, believing he does not love himself, or anything at all. After trying to talk to his unresponsive father, Bobby leaves with Rayette, who makes a playful sexual advance that he angrily rejects. When Rayette goes into a gas station for coffee, he gives her his wallet and abandons her, hitching a ride on a truck headed north.

The chicken salad sandwich scene

A famous scene from the film takes place in a roadside restaurant where Bobby tries to get a waitress to bring him a side order of toast with his breakfast. The waitress refuses, stating that toast is not offered as a side item, despite the diner's offering a chicken salad sandwich on toast.

Bobby appeals to both logic and common sense, but the waitress adamantly refuses to break with the restaurant's policy of only giving customers what is printed in the menu. Ultimately, Bobby orders both his breakfast and the chicken salad sandwich on toast, telling the waitress to bring the sandwich to him without mayonnaise, butter, lettuce, or chicken, culminating in Bobby's responding to the waitress' incredulity at his order to "hold the chicken" with "I want you to hold it between your knees!" The waitress then indignantly orders them to leave, and Nicholson knocks the glasses of water off the table with a sweep of his arm.[2][3]

While much of the film was shot on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, this scene was at a Denny's along Interstate 5 near Eugene, Oregon.[2][3]

Thirty years later, Nicholson performed a scene in the movie About Schmidt that drew from this scene; it was cut from the film but is available as a Deleted Scene in the DVD release. Nicholson's character in About Schmidt, an emotionally downtrodden retiree, in contrast, humbly accepts the waitress's "no substitutions" rule.

Cast

Music

The opening credits list the five classical piano pieces played in the film and referenced in the title. Pearl Kaufman is credited as the pianist.

Also listed are four songs sung by Tammy Wynette: "Stand by Your Man", "D-I-V-O-R-C-E", "Don't Touch Me", and "When There's a Fire in Your Heart".

Reception

Box office

According to Variety, the film earned $1.2 million in North American in 1970.[4] By 1976 the film had earned $8.9 million in North America.[5]

Critical

The film opened to positive reviews. It holds an 87% "Certified Fresh" rating on online review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The critics' consensus states: "An important touchstone of the New Hollywood era, Five Easy Pieces is a haunting portrait of alienation that features one of Jack Nicholson's greatest performances."[6]

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars out of four:[7]

The title of Five Easy Pieces refers not to the women its hero makes along the road, for there are only three, but to a book of piano exercises he owned as a child. The film, one of the best American films, is about the distance between that boy, practicing to become a concert pianist, and the need he feels 20 years later to disguise himself as an oil-field rigger. When we sense the boy, tormented and insecure, trapped inside the adult man, Five Easy Pieces becomes a masterpiece of heartbreaking intensity.... The movie is joyously alive to the road life of its hero. We follow him through bars and bowling alleys, motels and mobile homes, and we find him rebelling against lower-middle-class values even as he embraces them. In one magical scene, he leaps from his car in a traffic jam and starts playing the piano on the truck in front of him; the scene sounds forced, described this way, but Rafelson and Nicholson never force anything, and never have to. Robert Eroica Dupea is one of the most unforgettable characters in American movies.

He named the film the best of 1970, and later added it to his "Great Movies" list.[8]

Awards

The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Jack Nicholson), and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Karen Black). Nicholson lost to George C. Scott, and was nominated several more times before winning for the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Awards
Award Category Recipient(s) Outcome
43rd Academy Awards Best Picture Bob Rafelson and Richard Wechsler Nominated
Best Actor Jack Nicholson Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Karen Black Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Carole Eastman and Bob Rafelson Nominated
28th Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture - Drama Bob Rafelson and Richard Wechsler Nominated
Best Actor Jack Nicholson Nominated
Best Director Bob Rafelson Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Karen Black Won (Tied with Maureen Stapleton for Airport)
Best Screenplay Carole Eastman and Bob Rafelson Nominated

Home media

On November 16, 1999, Columbia TriStar Home Video released the film on two-sided DVD-Video, featuring both fullscreen (4:3) and widescreen formats.[9]

Grover Crisp of Sony Pictures conducted a 4K restoration of the film, and it was screening theatrically in DCP by 2012.[10][11]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection in November 2010 as part of the box set America Lost and Found: The BBS Story. It includes audio commentary featuring director Bob Rafelson and interior designer Toby Rafelson (originally recorded for a Criterion laserdisc); Soul Searching in "Five Easy Pieces", a 2009 video piece with Rafelson; BBStory, a 2009 documentary about the BBS era, with Rafelson, actors Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, and Ellen Burstyn, and directors Peter Bogdanovich and Henry Jaglom, among others; and audio excerpts from a 1976 AFI interview with Rafelson.[12]

On June 30, 2015, Five Easy Pieces was released as a stand-alone DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection.[13]

References

  1. ^ "Five Easy Pieces, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Hawthorn, Tom (February 22, 2011). "Taking a bite out Nicholson's 'hold the chicken' legend". The Globe and Mail. Canada. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Hold the Chicken - Five Easy Pieces movie clip (1970)". YouTube. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  4. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1970", Variety, January 6, 1971, p. 11
  5. ^ "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, January 7, 1976, p. 44
  6. ^ "Five Easy Pieces". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 29, 2012.
  7. ^ Roger Ebert. "Five Easy Pieces". Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  8. ^ Roger Ebert, Five Easy Pieces Movie Review March 16, 2003
  9. ^ "Five Easy Pieces and the Loss of Sexual Innocence Come to DVD". September 1999 Headlines. TheCinemaLaser.com. September 27, 1999. Retrieved June 19, 2015.
  10. ^ "Five Easy Pieces". Park Circus. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  11. ^ "Leading repertory cinema Film Forum to showcase Digital Cinema Packages". Film Journal International. February 10, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2015.
  12. ^ "Five Easy Pieces". The Criterion Collection.
  13. ^ Gary Tooze. "HD-Sensei: Five Easy Pieces [Blu-ray]". DVDBeaver.

External links

1970 National Society of Film Critics Awards

The 5th National Society of Film Critics Awards, given on 10 January 1971, honored the best filmmaking of 1970.The member critics voting for the awards were Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review, Gary Arnold of The Washington Post, Harold Clurman of The Nation, Jay Cocks of Time, David Denby of The Atlantic, Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker, Philip T. Hartung of Commonweal, Pauline Kael of The New Yorker, Stefan Kanfer of Time, Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic, Arthur Knight of Saturday Review, Robert Kotlowitz of Harper's Magazine, Joseph Morgenstern of Newsweek, Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice, Richard Schickel of Life, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. of Vogue, John Simon of The New Leader, Bruce Williamson of Playboy, and Paul D. Zimmerman of Newsweek.

1970 New York Film Critics Circle Awards

The 36th New York Film Critics Circle Awards, honored the best filmmaking of 1970.

28th Golden Globe Awards

The 28th Golden Globe Awards, honoring the best in film and television for 1970 films, were held on February 5, 1971.

43rd Academy Awards

The 43rd Academy Awards ceremony, presented by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, was held on April 15, 1971, and took place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to honor the best films of 1970. The Awards presentation, hosting duties were handled by 34 "Friends of Oscar" and broadcast by NBC for the first time in 11 years.

It was during this ceremony that George C. Scott became the first actor to reject an Oscar, claiming that the Academy Awards were "a two-hour meat parade, a public display with contrived suspense for economic reasons."With her Best Supporting Actress win, Helen Hayes became the first performer to win Oscars in both lead and supporting categories (having won Best Actress 38 years before for The Sin of Madelon Claudet). She also has the record of having the biggest gap between acting wins.

The documentary film Woodstock garnered three Oscar nominations, making it the most nominated documentary film in Oscar history.

This was the only time since the 2nd Academy Awards that all five nominees for Best Actress were first-time nominees, as well as the last time that either lead acting category had all new nominees. Also, this was the first time since the 7th Academy Awards in which none of the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Actor had a previous nomination in that category.

Bob Rafelson

Robert Rafelson (born February 21, 1933) is an American film director, writer and producer. He is regarded as one of the founders of the New Hollywood movement in the 1970s. Among his best-known films are Five Easy Pieces (1970), The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981). He was also one of the creators of the pop group and TV series The Monkees with Raybert/BBS Productions partner Bert Schneider. His first wife was the production designer Toby Carr Rafelson. His eldest son is songwriter Peter Rafelson, who co-wrote the hit song "Open Your Heart" for Madonna.

Carole Eastman

Carole Eastman (February 19, 1934 – February 13, 2004) was an American actress and screenwriter. Among her credits were screenplays for Monte Hellman's The Shooting (1967), Bob Rafelson's Five Easy Pieces (1970) (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award along with co-writer Rafelson), and Mike Nichols’s The Fortune (1975). She occasionally used the pseudonyms "Adrien Joyce" and "A.L. Appling".

Five Easy Pieces (1980 TV series)

Five Easy Pieces (輪流傳) is a TVB television series, premiered on 4 August 1980. Theme song "Five Easy Pieces" (輪流傳) composition and arrangement by Joseph Koo, lyricist by Wong Jim, sung by Adam Cheng.

Five Easy Pieces (Milo Rau)

Five Easy Pieces (2016) is a theatre production that the Swiss theatre and film director Milo Rau made with children for the Ghent arts centre CAMPO and that is based on the Dutroux affair.

Five Easy Pieces (Stravinsky)

Five Easy Pieces, also referred to by its original French title Cinq pièces faciles, is a collection of pieces for four hands by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. It was finished in 1917 and was published as a set in the winter of 1917/18.

Karen Black

Karen Blanche Black (née Ziegler; July 1, 1939 – August 8, 2013) was an American actress, screenwriter, singer, and songwriter. She rose to prominence for her work in various independent films in the 1970s. She received numerous accolades throughout her career, including three Golden Globe Award nominations, two of which she won, as well as an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

A native of Illinois, Black studied acting in New York City and performed on Broadway before making her major film debut in Francis Ford Coppola's You're a Big Boy Now (1966). She followed this with roles in Easy Rider (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970), and The Great Gatsby (1974), for the latter two of which she won Golden Globe awards for Best Supporting Actress; her performance in Five Easy Pieces also garnered her an Academy Award nomination.

In 1975, she appeared in Dan Curtis's cult horror films Trilogy of Terror and Burnt Offerings; Robert Altman's Nashville, and The Day of the Locust, which earned her a third Golden Globe nomination. Other roles include Airport 1975 (1974), Alfred Hitchcock's Family Plot (1976), Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982), and Tobe Hooper's Invaders from Mars (1986).

In the 1990s, Black starred in a variety of arthouse and horror films, as well as writing her own screenplays before appearing in Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses (2003), which cemented her status as a cult horror icon. Black continued to star in low-profile films throughout the early 2000s, as well as working as a playwright before being diagnosed with ampullary cancer in 2010. She died of the disease in Santa Monica in August 2013. Black's career spanned over 50 years, and includes nearly 200 film credits.

Lois Smith

Lois Arlene Smith (née Humbert; born November 3, 1930) is an American character actress, whose career spans seven decades. She made her film debut in the 1955 drama film East of Eden, and later played supporting roles in a number of movies, include Five Easy Pieces (1970), Resurrection (1980), Fatal Attraction (1987), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), Dead Man Walking, Twister (1996), Minority Report (2002), The Nice Guys (2015) and Lady Bird (2017).

In 2017, at the age of 87, Smith received critical acclaim for her leading performance in the science-fiction drama film Marjorie Prime, for which she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Awards, Gotham Awards and Saturn Award, and well as won Satellite Award. Smith also has had many roles on television, both daytime and prime time. She was regular cast member in the HBO horror drama True Blood, and well as received Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series nomination for The Americans.

Smith also is known for her extensive work in the theatre, receiving two Tony Award nominations for originating the role of Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath (1990) and for the role of Halie in a revival of Buried Child in 1996. She also starred in an acclaimed Off-Broadway revival of The Trip to Bountiful in 2005 for which she received an Obie Award for Best Actress, an Outer Critics Circle Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, and a Drama Desk Award. Smith is an ensemble member of Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.

Smith was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2007 for her outstanding contributions to the theatre. In 2013, she was given a Lifetime Achievement Obie Award for excellence in Off-Broadway performances. In her career, she has taught, directed, and written for the stage.

László Kovács (cinematographer)

László Kovács A.S.C. (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈkovaːt͡ʃ ˈlaːsloː]; 14 May 1933 – 22 July 2007) was a Hungarian cinematographer who was influential in the development of American New Wave films in the 1970s, collaborating with directors like Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Rush, Dennis Hopper, Norman Jewison, and Martin Scorsese. Most famous for his award-winning work on Easy Rider (1969) and Five Easy Pieces (1970), Kovács was the recipient of numerous awards, including three Lifetime Achievement Awards. He was an active member of the American Society of Cinematographers and was member of the organization's board of directors.

Man Trouble

Man Trouble is a 1992 romantic comedy starring Jack Nicholson and Ellen Barkin. It was directed by Bob Rafelson and written by Carole Eastman, who together had been responsible for 1970's Five Easy Pieces.The film is the fifth collaboration between Nicholson and Rafelson. Beverly D'Angelo and Harry Dean Stanton co-star.

National Board of Review Awards 1970

The 42nd National Board of Review Awards were announced on January 3, 1971.

Ralph Waite

Ralph Waite (June 22, 1928 – February 13, 2014) was an American actor and political activist, best known for his role as John Walton, Sr. on The Waltons (1972–1981), which he occasionally directed. He also had a recurring role in NCIS as Jackson Gibbs, the father of Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Waite had supporting roles in movies like Five Easy Pieces (1970), The Grissom Gang (1971), The Bodyguard (1992), and Cliffhanger (1993).

Raybert Productions

Raybert Productions was a production company that operated in the 1960s, founded by Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider. Its principal works were the wildly successful situation comedy The Monkees (and the group of the same name), and the 1969 movie Easy Rider (co-produced with Peter Fonda's Pando Company). Raybert was also the predecessor to BBS Productions, a New Hollywood production company founded by Rafelson, Schneider, and Schneider’s childhood friend Stephen Blauner. BBS Productions' best known film is The Last Picture Show.

Susan Anspach

Susan Florence Anspach (November 23, 1942 – April 2, 2018) was an American stage, film and television actress, who was best known for her roles in films during the 1970s such as Five Easy Pieces (1970), Play It Again, Sam (1972), Blume in Love (1973), and during the 1980s such as Montenegro.

The Best Years

The Best Years is a Canadian teen drama television series created by producer and writer of Degrassi: The Next Generation, Aaron Martin. The first season aired on Global in Canada and on The N in the United States. The second season was shown in the United States on The N and in Canada on E!, CanWest's secondary network.

Westholme, British Columbia

Westholme is a community located in the Chemainus River Valley alongside the Island Highway, between Chemainus and Duncan in British Columbia, Canada. It is part of the Chemainus Land District in the District Municipality of North Cowichan.

Westholme is one of the original settlements on Vancouver Island. Once a thriving mining and farming community, it is now filled with hobby farms and upscale private estates on large acreages, many of which are owned to this day by the descendants of original settlers to this area.

Westholme is divided by the Island Highway. It is bordered by the Somenos Land District to the south, Mount Sicker to the west, the Chemainus River to the north, the Halalt First Nation Reserve to the northeast, and Crofton to the east. It is a peaceful private community nestled in the shadow of Mount Sicker which is on the western edge of this community.

The ending to the movie Five Easy Pieces starring Jack Nicholson was filmed in Westholme.

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