Robert Dupea has given up his promising career as a concert pianist and is now working in oil fields. He lives together with Rayette, who's a waitress in a diner. When Robert hears from his sister that his father isn't well, he drives up to Washington to see him, taking Rayette with him. There he gets confronted with his rich, cultured family that he had left behind. Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
Bob Rafelson's FIVE EASY PIECES is about inner pain and suffering that just so happens to consume people in all walks of life. It is sometimes hard to watch and Nicholson's character "Robert" is a miserable SOB. However, he is also a very compelling character who affects all around him. He is lonely, he is scared, and he does not know what to do with himself.
If you are looking for plot, this is not the picture for you. The only remnants of a plot concern Nicholson's father, a distant memory of his previous prestigious lifestyle as a classical pianist, who has fallen sick. Jack decides to visit his family's estate to pay his last respects. This sets the forum of emotional indifference and misery. He hates his old life, which he left to become a construction worker and has taken up with a flighty waitress played brilliantly by Karen Black. He pretends to enjoy this simple way of living, but he treats Black like the trash he considers her to be and could care less about anyone.
Why should anyone see this film? Because Jack Nicholson is one of our greatest actors and he is able to transcend what was put on paper regarding the main character and project raw power and feelings in his own, unique way. The movie is littered with classic scenes, in particular, the chicken salad sandwich scene, one of the funniest I've ever seen. The one I feel that stands out and symbolizes the essence of the film is where Jack plays Chopin in the piano room while Rafelson's camera does a slow 360 around the room, glancing at pictures of his life before he fled from it. It is a perfect mixture of intensity, music, and sadness.
The last scene, which ends so abruptly, makes perfect sense within this context. It leaves us feeling empty and unfulfilled, exactly how Nicholson's character feels. This is what makes this character piece all the more powerful.
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