Saturday, December 4, 2010

Easy Rider (1969): Not Such an Easy Ride to Take

Easy Rider
During the years Easy Rider has become a cult and classic movie. Probably it is the most important film in the careers of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. They both play leading roles in Easy Rider and in addition, the first one is the producer of the movie and the latter is the film's director. Hardly any other motion picture they've been involved in has had the impact of this one. It's also safe to say that Easy Rider has given the start of Jack Nicholson's tremendously successful career presenting him as a first class actor and bringing him the first of his 12 Oscar nominations. But despite all mentioned above, this movie is not easy to watch and many people will not like it.

Easy Rider is about two counterculture motorcycle riders, Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper), on their way from Los Angeles to New Orleans' Mardis Gras. It is a long way to go and during their trip they experience a lot of 1960's America. They make some fast cash with a drug deal, take hitchhikers, meet a bunch of hippies, stay briefly in prison, encounter a lawyer addicted to alcohol (Jack Nicholson), survive a night raid, visit a brothel, etc. They come across people's intolerance and hatred more often than they run into acceptance and love.

Easy Rider starts a little bit slowly as the events happening to the both bikers seem boring to an extent and not very significant. However, this could be intentional because the narrative becomes more intense and meaningful as the film progresses. And the appearance of Jack Nicholson's character, George Hanson, completely changes the situation spreading plenty of color and freshness over the bikers' trip. The movie could still look boring and dull to a big part of the audience since it is firmly situated into the 1960's and it involves some thinking and deeper perception in order to benefit from its watching.

Easy Rider is about freedom but "freedom" has a lot of faces. One may say that there is not a single entirely free person in the whole movie. George Hanson has an unrestricted mind but he is not free in his actions. Billy, although easy on the road, is under the sway of the money otherwise. And Wyatt, probably the most balanced of our characters, seems like not knowing what to do with his freedom and how to experience it in the best possible and satisfactory for himself way. Easy Rider shows a period of the American history which people have started with great hopes but it has quickly turned out to be just the next illusion.

Some reviewers assume that George Hanson represents the average American who simply does not dare to be "free" enough. But in fact, it's hard to believe the average US citizen is a lawyer and drinks so much that often spends his nights in jail. In addition, Hanson is rather clever and more intelligent than our 2 leading protagonists. He behaves strange and charmingly funny at times but this also does not make him an ordinary man. His line "This used to be a hell of a good country. I can't understand what's gone wrong with it." summarizes the whole film.

The story, co-written by Honda and Hopper too, is quite simple in its entirety. The talking is limited but the audience is not left to experience the movie only visually cause Easy Rider has a great thematic soundtrack and most of the songs fit perfectly into the film. It is not a movie that's for everyone and especially today there are even less people that will appreciate it but if you are into classic films, you can watch it and see for yourself where its 60's cult appeal has come from.

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