The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.
Two young "hippie" bikers, Wyatt and Billy sell some dope in Southern California, stash their money away in their gas-tank and set off for a trip across America, on their own personal odyssey looking for a way to lead their lives. On the journey they encounter bigotry and hatred from small-town communities who despise and fear their non-conformism. However Wyatt and Billy also discover people attempting 'alternative lifestyles' who are resisting this narrow-mindedness, there is always a question mark over the future survival of these drop-out groups. The gentle hippie community who thank God for 'a place to stand' are living their own unreal dream. The rancher they encounter and his Mexican wife are hard-pushed to make ends meet. Even LSD turns sour when the trip is a bad one. Death comes to seem the only freedom. When they arrive at a diner in a small town, they are insulted by the local rednecks as weirdo degenerates. They are arrested on some minor pretext by the local sheriff and ... Written by
There is so much going on in the multi-layered Easy Rider. For one thing, it doesn't glorify hippies. In fact, Hopper and Fonda are really just businessmen, out to make the big score. They're quintessentially American -- Fonda calls himself Captain America, and wears an American flag on his leather jacket, and has red, white and blue painted on his chopper's gas tank. These guys really just want to make money, not change society. If it were the 80's, they'd be selling computers. Also, some interesting symbolism -- Fonda puts the stash of money resulting from the drug sale in his gas tank -- in other words, money fuels the American dream.
This film is also an anti-Western. Instead of heading west, these guys head east. They pass through Monument Valley, site of many John Ford westerns. At an early point, they fix their choppers in a barn while a farmer fixes the horseshoes for his horse.
There is a structure to this seemingly freewheeling tale: the trip starts out idealistically. After they go to the commune, Fonda and Hopper skinny-dip with two hippie chicks in a bucolic, peaceful setting. The music is laid-back, the Byrds, the drug used is marijuana. It's an idealized example of "free love." Later, in New Orleans, our two heroes hook up with two prostitutes -- so much for free love. Fonda breaks down during an acid trip, and instead of music we hear the jarring sounds of an industrial, urbanized landscape -- geographically and symbolically far away from that Arizona commune.
This film doesn't glorify the hippie ethos -- in fact, it almost seems like a neo-conservative critique on the limitations of the hippie experience. Late in the film, Fonda tells Hopper, "We blew it," a line that prefigures the ultimate disillusionment that set in during the early 70's, when the Age of Aquarius gave way to Watergate, malaise, Reagan and rampant consumerism.
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