Parents' Guide to

Five Easy Pieces

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Gritty '70s drama about alienation has sex, cursing.

Movie R 1970 98 minutes
Five Easy Pieces Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 16+

Based on 1 parent review

age 16+

An honest study in flawed human nature

The educational value of this film is the study of the inner conflict and manifested toxicity of an individual malcontent, unwilling to fit into a pretentious affluent society nor a gritty provincial life because he cannot overlook the inherent flaws in both. The film isn't an endorsement of the actions of the protagonist. It's a glimpse into and warning for how a person capable of intelligence and sensitivity can become an insensitive, smarmy, selfish womanizer. This transpires because he is unwilling to confront his own emotional turmoil, is uncomfortable with the brutal honesty of examining his own character, and (as a result of this) has apathy towards the long-term consequences of his actions. This film is astonishingly honest in presenting the behavior of flawed individuals. Life is not a fairy tale. Flawed individuals make flawed decisions. The protagonist ultimately comes to terms with his toxic nature. He acknowledges that he cannot continue on his current path of selfish manipulation and emotional harm. In the end, he separates himself from his family, girlfriend, and society. It is up to the viewer to interpret if he is freeing himself of them or freeing them from him. This film will resonate with thoughtful adolescents. It's a call to seek out help for emotional health if needed. And to be both good to people and to seek out the good in others. Because the alternative could mean finding oneself on a cold lonely journey of isolation with no destination, like Robert Eroica Dupea.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This 1970 movie vividly showcased the gritty talent of Jack Nicholson, and it was an outstanding example of a new kind of independent, non-studio filmmaking. The movie was a reflection of the influence of disaffected youth on a changing American reality and it's difficult to convey the refreshing departure from the usual that Five Easy Pieces represented. The film's look, freewheelingly photographed by Laszlo Kovacs, brings the landscape into the cast of characters and it has been imitated so often that today's viewers may find the movie dated. Bobby's confusion and anger echoed the generalized sentiments of a nation of young people bent on doing things differently, and Bobby was at least asking some questions, even if for the wrong reasons.

The movie's missteps are obvious today as it awkwardly sets up devotion to art -- an ordinary feature of Bobby's parents' home -- as a cartoonish sham that only honest and direct people like Bobby are capable of exposing. The film's greatest flaw is its ham-handed agenda -- if the world Bobby came from is a silly pretentious cartoon then Bobby's anger is legitimized. Young viewers today will more likely see Bobby as an over-privileged elitist who is just plain angry, not at pretension, but at everything. He likes to show up for his dangerous job on the oil rigs drunk and is outraged when the boss sends him home. He gets angry at his blue-collar friend when the man has the audacity to compare his trailer park life to Bobby's. The movie's problem is its own pretension. It seems to champion those who challenge authority but its most iconic line comes when Bobby scathingly tells a surly server at a truck stop to "hold" the chicken salad "between your knees." Yet we don't feel much like applauding when the big bad authority Bobby brings tumbling down is just a weary old waitress who's been standing on her feet too long to be cordial. Nicholson was 33 when he played Bobby. Many teens will probably wonder what an old guy like him is going on about.

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