Easy Rider (1969) (R)
"Easy Rider" is a curious movie, balancing between poignant and pointless. Dennis Hopper's explosive directorial debut is heralded as one of the best debuts, but "Easy Rider" just didn't measure up.
The film follows two friends, Wyatt and Billy (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper respectively), who enjoy traveling without much baggage (both physical and emotion) on the backs of their motorcycles. They travel from here to there, supporting themselves with drug trafficking. They seem to represent the average hippie—deep and philosophical, yet unable to communicate quite articulately and always put down because of angry and dangerous stereotypes.
Near the beginning of the film the friends make a drug trade and soon find that they are in possession of a large amount of money and decide to make a meandering path towards Mardi Gras, where they think they'll have a great time.
On this journey, the pair runs into some interesting people including a colony of like-minded stereotypical hippies. Wyatt and Billy stay at this colony for a while and then decide that they would enjoy being at Mardi Gras much better so they head out again and run into George Hanson (Jack Nicholson) who accompanies them for another leg of their adventure.
What "Easy Rider" seems to be saying is simply "Hey, be nice to each other." This would make sense because of the two main characters both being put down on more than one occasion because they are different and because of the time in which the movie was made. "Easy Rider" was the same year as Woodstock and as the 60s were coming to a close, "Easy Rider" tried its best to remind everyone of tolerance.
But there is an adolescent immaturity to the way that the film is scripted and directed. Both protagonists are jobless, likable, and incredibly logical and not prone to any side effects from all the drugs that they are taking. Only one scene does not glamorize the drugs, but soon after the scene is completed Wyatt and Billy shake off the experience and go about their merry business.
Wyatt and Billy are youthful characters who are more knowledgeable about the world than their adult counterparts. When the posse encounters Southern prejudice, they journey will not remain the same.
There is also a level of Americanism in the film, Wyatt dresses in American flag-clad clothes and his motorcycle has the stars and stripes painted on the side. Are they really searching for what is "American" on their journey. If so, then the film was even more preachy than I first thought.
"Easy Rider" doesn't really go anywhere. It meanders and tries to pluck a few emotional strings, having more than one "Bonnie and Clyde" moment; but it really is quite flat. I would rather not watch a movie about two guys who just walk around and look at landscape. I failed to connect with any of the characters.
Jack Nicholson is the best actor in the movie, he seems the most well-rounded and capable of pulling off an accent without seemingly trying.
The scenery and the cinematography are both beautiful. The stylization is pleasant to look at, minus one psychedelic scene. Yet, the story itself is what I see as filled with holes.
Not moving or enthralling by any means.
Score: 2 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones