Five Easy Pieces
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sThe following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Five Easy Pieces can be found here.

Trained as a concert pianist, Robert 'Bobby' Dupea (Jack Nicholson) turned his back on his rich, intellectual family and on a promising career in order to work in the oil fields, go bowling, drink beer with his friend Elton (Billy Green Bush), and take up with Rayette (Karen Black), a not-so-bright waitress. Still, he doesn't find this life satisfying either. When Bobby learns from his sister Partita (Lois Smith), also a classical pianist, that their father has suffered two strokes and may not recover, Bobby decides that it's time to visit his estranged family. With Rayette in tow, Bobby makes the trip back to Puget Sound, Washington only to find that he's as big a misfit in the rich, intellectual world of his family as he is in the working-class world.

The story and screenplay for the film was written by American screenwriters Carole Eastman (as Adrien Joyce) and Bob Rafelson, who also directed and co-produced the movie.

The meaning of the title has been subject to much imaginative speculation. But its clear referent was lost because several short scenes that were to have run during the opening credits in the original screenplay never made it into the final film. In the first, the camera scans a series of Dupea family photo albums, pausing over each member in turn. This was where the viewer originally learned the musical references in the characters' middle names (Carl Fidelio Dupea, Robert Eroica Dupea, Herbert Kreutzer Dupea, Elizabeth Partita [Tita] Dupea). The second scene was to have shown seven-year-old Robert sitting at the piano with his mother. The third was to show Robert playing at a recital, with the program reading "Five Easy Pieces--Grebner--Played by Robert Dupea." That music would have been heard and then was to have been overdubbed into the next scene, in which we are now in a chapel during the Dupea mother's funeral.

No specific problem was addressed in the movie, but many viewers point out that Bobby's behavior was not uncharacteristic of many young people circa 1970 in the U.S., a time described as one of confusion, angst, indecision, hopelessness, and a loss of idealism that settled in after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and was fueled by the ongoing War in Vietnam. In their eyes, Bobby was one of the growing number of adolescents choosing to rebel against society and find his own way. Other viewers see Bobby as mentally ill, depressed, or possibly autistic, which is why he finds it hard to build meaningful, loving relationships with the people in his life. The story seems simple enough, but there are many details and emotions being played out so that many differing opinions can exist at the same time as to what was going on in Bobby's mind.

Elton claims that Rayette is pregnant and that she's 'all torn up about it,' but no mention of pregnancy is made again. Rayette never admits it to Bobby, and Bobby never asks her to confirm it. It's left to the viewer to decide whether Elton was telling the truth or just trying to get Bobby to believe that a life with kids was what it's all about.

In order, they are: (1) Fantasy in F minor, Op. 49, by Frdric Chopin (played by Bobby on the back of a moving van), (2) Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach (played by Partita in a recording studio), (3) Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major, K. 271 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (played in a two-piano arrangement by Carl and Catherine upon Bobby's arrival home), (4) Prelude in E Minor, Op. 28, No. 4 by Chopin (played by Bobby for Catherine), and (5) Fantasy in D minor, K. 397 by Mozart.

After Catherine breaks it off with Bobby and his attempts to talk with his father end with him in tears, Bobby and Rayette decide to head back home. Along the way, Rayette attempts to get amorous with Bobby, but he pushes her away. They stop at a gas station to fill up the tank, and Rayette asks for change so that she can go inside for a cup of coffee. Bobby hands her his entire wallet, then goes to the men's room where he stares at himself pensively in the mirror for a long time. When he goes back outside, he notices that a logging truck has pulled up. He talks to the driver for a moment, then hops into the cab with him. The driver wonders whether Bobby has a coat, but Bobby replies that it burned up in the fire along with everything else of his. The trucker offers him a spare jacket, because 'where we're going, it's gonna get colder than hell.' They then drive out of the station and head north on the highway. In the final scene, Rayette wanders around the parking lot looking for Bobby, but the logging truck is far up the road already.

'Eroica' is the title given to Beethoven's third symphony. Bobby's brother Carl and sister Partita are also named after music. Car'ls middle name is Fidelio, which is the title of Beethoven's only opera. A 'partita' is a suite of pieces that are grouped together.

The trucker's comment about it going to get 'colder than hell' suggests that they are headed north out of Washington, which could take him either to Canada or Alaska. Bobby's mention to Tita (at the recording studio) that, after visiting his dad, he'll probably head to Canada, and the two hitchhikers' focus on Alaska as being 'clean' makes either place equally as likely.

Several viewers have recommended About Schmidt (2002) as a sequel to Five Easy Pieces. It stars Jack Nicholson in a role different from Five Easy Pieces (also 32 years older), but the situations are so similar that it could almost be an older Bobby. In fact, almost any movie with Jack Nicholson will feature him as a wise-cracking, social misfit of sorts. Highly recommended are Easy Rider (1969), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), and Wolf (1994). Rebel Without a Cause (1955), although filmed 15 years earlier than Five Easy Pieces, also concerns a young man disillusioned with society.

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