One of the main architects of the independents taking over Hollywood was director Bob Rafelson. He, along with producer Bert Schneider, had had huge success with the TV series The Monkees, a US riff on The Beatles A Hard Day’s Night. They set up production company B.B.S. to make films which reflected a more contemporary portrait of American life.
First out of the blocks was a low budget biker film: Easy Rider. With that surprise box-office success and friends like the rising star Jack Nicholson, their films went onto capture the unsettling mood of alienation and discontent in American society as the optimism of the 60s turned to the corrupt reality of the 70s.
Five Easy Pieces, perhaps more than most of B.B.S.’s modest output, reflects that feeling of alienation in Nicholson’s extraordinary performance as Bobby Dupea; a shiftless thirtysomething oil rigger and former piano prodigy immune to any sense of responsibility, who returns to some kind of reckoning at his upper-middle-class childhood home. And due regard must go to Carole Eastman for her incisive script which captures the stultified class milieu and Dupea’s dislocated sense of self.