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Five Easy Pieces (1970) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • 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.

  • Bobby Eroica Dupea comes from a well-bred family of musicians, and once showed great promise as a concert pianist. By nature a restless, angry individual, Bobby left his family and his music when he could no longer endure the dull, cloistered routine of daily practice. He took to the road, wanting to "see the world," and hopefully find something or someone to quell his inner turmoil. He has settled in a small town as an oil rigger, where his life consists of going to work, arguing with his dimwitted but loving girlfriend Rayette, and bowling every night with his friend Elton. Not surprisingly, this routine begins to disgust Bobby and, fed up, he decides to travel to Puget Sound, Washington to pay his family a visit. Leaving Rayette at a nearby motel, gets on a truck leaving everything.

  • Bobby Dupea has been drifting in his life over the last several years. He currently works on an oil rig in southern California, and partakes in stereotypical working class activities during his free time. He is a brooding, irresponsible cad. When he isn't cheating on her, he treats his waitress girlfriend, Rayette Dipesto, poorly. Not the brightest light in the world, Rayette, who lives by the code of Tammy Wynette songs, continually complains to Bobby about his treatment of her, but still clings to him for dear life. This life belies the fact that Bobby grew up in a privileged life as "Robert", who, along with his two siblings, were destined for musical greatness, Robert as a classical pianist. Their parents even gave each of the three some classical musical reference as part of their given names. While his siblings followed that path, Robert rebelled against it, he who has not seen his father in three years. He hears from his classical pianist sister, Partita, that their father has suffered a couple of strokes which has rendered him semi-comatose. As such, Bobby, with Rayette tagging along much to his chagrin, decides to return to the home he grew up in - a musical compound where his father and two siblings still live - to visit with his father. This reunion, which includes seeing his siblings' current lives, provides the stepping stone for what Bobby decides to do in the next immediate phase of his life. This reunion, which includes his violinist brother Carl's mentoring of young beautiful pianist named Catherine Van Oost, makes Bobby contemplate running toward instead of running away from something for the first time in a long time.

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  • Bobby Dupea seems to be a regular blue collar kind of guy. He works on oil rigs and lives with his girlfriend Rayette who works as waitress in a diner. He spends a lot of his time drinking and carousing. After having little or no contact with his family for three years, he decides to pay a visit to his family home after sister Partita tells him their father is quite ill having had a stroke. Surprisingly, Bobby's family is quite well off and all seem to be accomplished musicians. Bobby himself is a classical pianist. He still finds them pompous and annoying, something that comes to the fore again during his visit.

  • Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson) is a worker on a Californian oil rig. He lives with his girlfriend Rayette and their relationship is starting to cool. Upon visiting his sister in Los Angeles, Bobby discovers that his father is gravely ill. He travels to Washington state to see him, but this forces many sore subjects with his family to come to the fore.

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  • A dropout from upper-class America picks up work along the way on oil rigs when his life isn't spent in a squalid succession of bars, motels, and other points of interest.


Spoilers

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Synopsis

  • Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson) works in a rural California oil field with his friend Elton (Billy 'Green' Bush), who has a wife and baby son. Most of Bobby's free time is spent hanging out at a local diner during his lunch and dinner breaks to see his waitress girlfriend, Rayette (Karen Black), who has dreams of singing country music. On weekends, Bobby hangs out in the company of Elton, with whom he bowls, gets drunk, and has sex with other women. Bobby has evidently not told anyone that he is a former classical pianist who comes from an eccentric family of musicians.

    When Rayette becomes pregnant and his friend Elton is arrested and sent to jail for having robbed a gas station a year earlier, Bobby quits his job and leaves for Los Angeles where his older sister, Partita (Lois Smith), also a pianist, is making a recording. Partita informs him that their father, from whom he is estranged, has suffered two strokes and is now an invalid. She urges him to return to the family home in Washington State.

    As Rayette has threatened to kill herself if Bobby leaves her, he very reluctantly asks her along to his home town. Driving north, they pick up two women headed for Alaska, one of whom is obsessed about "filth." The four of them are thrown out of a restaurant when he gets into an argument with a waitress who refuses to accommodate his special order of a chicken salad. After dropping off the two women (who are implied to be a lesbian couple), Bobby and Rayette check into a roadside motel for the night.

    The next day, nearing his destination, Bobby, clearly embarrassed by the Southern trailer-trash Rayette's lack of polish and crude manners, tells her to remain at the motel before proceeding to his family home on an island in Puget Sound.

    Upon arrival at his family's country house, Bobby finds Partita giving their father a haircut, but the old man seems completely oblivious to him. At dinner, he meets Catherine Van Oost (Susan Anspach), a young pianist engaged to his younger brother, Carl (Ralph Waite), a violinist. Despite personality differences, Catherine and Bobby (in which she and everyone in the family formally calls 'Robert'), become attracted and make love in her bedroom.

    After two weeks, Rayette becomes bored at the motel and comes to the Dupea estate unannounced. Her presence creates an awkward situation, but when Samia, a pompous family friend, ridicules Rayette's background, Bobby gives a fiery defense of her. Storming from the room in search of Catherine, he discovers his father's male nurse giving Partita a massage. Now more agitated, Bobby picks a senseless fight with the massue, and is quickly knocked to the floor.

    The next day, Bobby tries to convince Catherine to go away with him, but she declines, believing that Bobby 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 is angrily rejected.

    In the final scene, when Rayette goes in for some coffee at a gas station, he gives her his wallet and then abandons her, hitching a ride on a truck headed north into Canada.

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