Saturday, May 23, 2015

AFI Top 100, #88: "Easy Rider" (1969)

Movie Stats:
Released 1969 (France)
American, in English (a small amount of non-translated Spanish)
Director - Dennis Hopper
Stars - Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson

Plot Summary:
Motorcyclists Wyatt (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper) go on a cross-country trip, where they meet a wide array of interesting characters. Nicholson co-stars as one of their short-term traveling companions, George Hanson.

Almost constant drug use (most of which was probably for realsies); violence; very brief nudity (male butt, female everything); implied sexy times (I think; I’m honestly not too sure what was going on during that acid trip scene). Surprisingly, there’s virtually no blue language, apart from the use of the word a**hole once.

Bad Stuff:
The stylized flashing cuts between some scenes were unnecessary, annoying, and borderline seizure-inducing.

It seemed kind of meandering and pointless to me, a feeling exacerbated by the rather abrupt ending.

I didn’t like the acid trip scene at all. I do recognize and acknowledge its importance to the film, but nonetheless it was confusing and off-putting to me.

Good Stuff:
The scenery is amazing. This was like watching the hippest, most trippy travelogue ever.

Jack Nicholson is really good. I’m not sure what this feeling is. I think it’s mostly surprise. I mean, he’s really good in this, in a way that I didn’t know he could be. His character isn’t very Nicholson-like at all. That is to say, for once, I didn’t feel like he was playing himself. He didn’t even sound like himself (his southern accent was pretty good IMO). And he got the best lines.

I liked that dialogue was sparse. Since Hopper co-wrote, and then directed, this film, I’m going to give the kudos to him. Not every movie benefits from minimal dialogue, but it worked here. Hopper let the characters’ actions and their facial expressions, plus the scenery, do most of the talking.

The Verdict:
I wasn’t alive in the late 60s/early 70s, but I’ve read a fair amount about it, and I’ve watched a lot of movies from that era. If someone were to ask me, “What did the late 60s feel like?”, I would point them toward this film. I really can’t imagine how it could feel more like a movie of its time. It’s not just the way the characters are dressed, or the very 60s way the scenes were shot, or the drugs, or the soundtrack (which is excellent BTW). It’s also about what the characters say, and the experiences they have. I can’t imagine this movie being born out of any other time period. It was fascinating to watch.

Quite honestly, I thought I would hate it. I’m not really big on druggie films, nor do I feel an affinity with the hippie era. However, there’s something extremely likable about this film. The core of it is oddly endearing. I wouldn’t call it sweet. I guess I was taken in by that hope that characterized much of the 60s, even though the film quashes it (and so did life, really). In the end, I actually liked it quite a bit. I would watch it again, although I might skip past the acid trip scene next time. 

I give the movie 4 stars.


Patricia said...

This was another of those movies viewed very late at night. Thus, it was hard to stay awake. Your review makes me want to watch it again, but my memories of the movie make me NOT want to watch it again.

I feel like I read somewhere once that Peter Fonda is still pretty much a 60s dude at heart and he didn't get caught up in all the "get-ahead" Hollywood bullshit.

Hey look! My comment has the same number of swears as the movie!

balyien said...

Haha, I'm sure you have much more important ways to spend your time that don't include a re-watch of "Easy Rider." I think this is the only thing I've ever seen Peter Fonda in? I should at least read his Wiki page. I usually do Wiki all the actors whenever I watch a movie. Yesterday I fell down the rabbit hole when I started looking up all the actors from Frankenstein (#87, review to come shortly).