Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1970. BBS Productions, Columbia Pictures Corporation, Five Easy Pieces Productions, Raybert Productions. Story by Bob Rafelson, Carole Eastman, Screenplay by Carole Eastman. Cinematography by Laszlo Kovacs. Produced by Bob Rafelson, Richard Wechsler. Music by Pearl Kaufman. Production Design by Toby Carr Rafelson. Costume Design by Bucky Rous. Film Editing by Christopher Holmes, Gerald Shepard.
The finest performance of Jack Nicholson‘s career. He plays a pianist who was once a prodigy but now roams the country doing odd jobs as a manual labourer. The film’s opening finds him working southern oil fields, stringing along his simple-minded girlfriend (Karen Black) and hanging out with his friends until an urgent call from his family brings him back home. His father is dying and now wants his whole family to be near him before he goes, forcing Nicholson to confront both the relatives and the successful career he once left behind. Lois Smith has a marvelous supporting role as Nicholson’s equally talented sister who has made a career out of her music, and Susan Anspach stars as a woman who could possibly be a positive new path for our anti-hero to take. The diner scene where Nicholson flips out at a curt waitress is now movie history, though this film has much more worth remembering than just that: its incisive portrait of youth wasted in folly is pristine, some of the best internal angst ever displayed on the screen. The film furthered Nicholson’s ever-brightening film career, though for co-star Black and director Bob Rafelson this remains the most memorable highlight of theirs.
The Criterion Collection: #546
Academy Award Nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (Jack Nicholson); Best Supporting Actress (Karen Black); Best Original Story and Screenplay
Golden Globe Award: Best Supporting Actress (Karen Black)
Nominations: Best Picture-Drama; Best Actor-Drama (Jack Nicholson); Best Director (Bob Rafelson); Best Screenplay