Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Five Easy Pieces (1970)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Five Easy Pieces (1970)

In Bob Rafelson's intriguing and existential character study, and off-beat road film - it appeared during the New Wave age; the film told about a disaffected, frustrated male - a talented, classical concert pianist-turned-oil rigger seeking his identity; he had abandoned his privileged, well-to-do family background, becoming the black sheep of his family as a crass, drifting, redneck, rough, beer-drinking oil worker in Southern California; and now he faced the challenge of reluctantly returning home after 20 years to visit his dying father:

  • the film's two central mis-matched characters were ex-classical pianist/blue-collar S. California oil-rigger Robert Eroica Dupea (Jack Nicholson), and his adoring but uneducated, ignorant, needy, crass, clinging and dim-witted girlfriend/waitress Rayette Dipesto (Karen Black) from a local diner

Oil-Rig Blue-Collar Worker Robert "Eroica" Dupea (Jack Nicholson)

Diner Waitress-Girlfriend Rayette Dipesto (Karen Black)
  • Rayette was introduced in their bathroom, barefooted and still wearing her orange diner waitress uniform, with teased up hair, heavily made-up cat's eyes, and frosted lips - and was thoroughly obsessed with country singer Tammy Wynette
  • one night, Robert suggested that they go out and have a "good time" with their best friends: oil-rig co-worker friend Elton (Billy "Green" Bush) and his wife Stoney (Fannie Flagg); at the Black Gold Bowling Lanes while Rayette was pouting outside in the car after being criticized for her lack of bowling skills, Robert flirted with bottle blonde Twinky (Marlena McGuire) and chubby-faced, busty, curly-haired brunette Betty (aka Shirley) (Sally Struthers); he told them: "I wish I had more time to talk to you girls, but..."
  • he had to attend to the hurt and teary-eyed Rayette in the parking lot who always appeared upset by his uncaring treatment of her ("I am not a piece of crap...You treat me like I was");he admitted that he was "not too nice a guy," and she was a "real hell of a good person" because she put up with him
  • after work one day, he partied with Elton with the two females from the bowling alley, Betty and Twinky; wearing only their underwear, they drank heavily and partied in Twinky's apartment late into the night
  • after their drunken night, Robert was refused work from his main rig supervisor for being "unfit"; swigging from a bottle as he drove away from work on the freeway in the early morning, he became stuck in a freeway jam; Robert exited his car, yelled at everyone: "Why don't we all line up like a goddamn bunch of ants in the most beautiful part of the day," and gave an impromptu concert performance playing on an upright piano (out of tune) in the back of a truck stuck ahead in the traffic
  • Robert learned that Rayette was pregnant, and scowled at the thought of enjoying permanent married life with Rayette (with children), although Elton encouraged him to accept middle-class values, including a wife and kids; impulsively, Robert quit his oil-rig job
  • Robert visited with his sister Partita or "Tita" (Lois Smith) in an LA recording studio, when he was told that his estranged father was seriously ill and dying after two strokes; his initial reaction was one of denial: "Don't tell me about this"; she advised lovingly: "Don't you think it's right that you should see him at least once?" - and he reluctantly agreed to visit, but insisted on driving up by himself to the family home on Puget Sound in Washington State; he added: "Maybe I'll go into Canada after. I'm not gonna stay long, Tita, you know, one week at the most"
  • in a jarring sex scene in Betty's apartment - filmed with a hand-held camera, as Bobby was coupled with the nude female, she grabbed onto him as he carried her and spun around the room, while she screeched and gasped, until they fell exhausted onto the bed as Betty climaxed, and her screams subsided
  • as Robert packed for his trip, it appeared that his relationship with Rayette was ending; he told her that he had not broken any promises to her, and he was leaving: "I never told you it would work out to anything. Did I?" He promised to send her some money and to call her; then he experienced an emotional outburst at the wheel of his parked car -- he angrily thrashed around in the driver's seat in an uncontrollable fit; he struggled with himself (caught between two extremes) about whether Rayette (now pregnant) should join him or not during a visit to his family, fearing being tied down by responsibilities to her, and also embarrassed by her trailer trash qualities, crude manners and lack of class or refinement; he reluctantly agreed to have her join him

Hitchhikers: Lesbian Couple
Palm's Rant About Crap and Filth
  • during Robert's car trip to his patrician family in the Pacific Northwest to visit his ailing father, he gave a lift to an aggressive, complaining lesbian couple Palm Apodaca (Helena Kallianiotes) and Terry Grouse (Toni Basil) on their way to Alaska because Palm stated that they wanted to escape society and filth because it was "cleaner"; the long-haired, anti-filth ecology nut and malcontent Palm elaborated further in a memorable, ranting monologue, preaching prophetically about her discontent regarding "crap" and "filth": ("All those signs selling you crap and more crap and more crap. And I - I don't know. I don't know. I don't even want to talk about it...It's just filthy. People are filthy. I think that's the biggest thing that's wrong with people. I think they wouldn't be as violent if they were clean, because then they wouldn't have anybody to pick on. Dirt. Not dirt. See, dirt isn't bad. It's filth. Filth is bad. That's what starts maggots and riots...")
  • at a roadside cafe-diner, in the film's most memorable scene, an impatient Robert got into a frustrating fight with a strict, rude and surly waitress (Lorna Thayer) (who allowed 'no substitutions') over his initial side order of wheat toast - to bypass her rules about menu substitutions, Robert's order quickly became a chicken-salad sandwich order with toasted wheat bread but without the chicken, lettuce and mayo: ("You make sandwiches, don't you?...You've got bread and a toaster of some kind?"...OK, I'll make it as easy for you as I can. I'd like an omelette, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast. No mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce, and a cup of coffee...Yeah. Now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules"); he also added a further sneering challenge: "I want you to hold it (the chicken) between your knees" and then after telling her: "You see this sign?", he cleared the table with one swipe of his arm - of all the water glasses, place-mats, cutlery and menus; they were subsequently thrown out of the restaurant
Roadside Cafe-Diner Scene
  • in the car after the diner sequence, hitchhiker Palm praised him for his defiance: ("Fantastic that you could figure that all out, and lie that down on her, so you can come up with a way to get your toast, fantastic!"); Bobby pointed out that he actually WASN'T successful in obtaining what he ultimately wanted - in this case, his food: "Yeah, well, I didn't get it (the sandwich), did I?"; she responded: "No, but it was very clever. I would have just punched her out"
  • leaving Rayette in a nearby motel and hinting for her to return home, Robert arrived at his family's country home in the Pacific Northwest (on an island in Puget Sound); he met his distant, uptight brother Carl Fidelio Dupea (Ralph Waite), a violinist wearing a neck brace, and his brother's cultured and attractive blonde fiancee Catherine Van Oost (Susan Anspach), one of Carl's music students; his dying father Nicholas (William Challee) sat immobile and stricken-dumb in a wheelchair with eyes half-closed and completely oblivious to Robert's presence
  • during Carl's absence for a day, Robert met up with Catherine in the music room where he played a Chopin Prelude for her, as a moving camera circled the entire room; Robert downplayed his talent: ("I picked the easiest piece that I could think of. I first played it when I was eight years old, and I played it better then"), and then he ridiculed her emotional response to his playing; he claimed he had no inner feeling or emotion while playing
  • then shortly later in Catherine's upstairs bedroom, he continued to make another improper romantic advance toward her: ("I faked a little Chopin. You faked a big response...Up till now, all I've been getting from you is meaningful looks at the dinner table, and a lot of vague suggestions about the day after tomorrow"); he forced her onto the bed, and told her: "Let's be serious"; when she resisted, he ordered her to "shut up," and then she quietly challenged him: "No inner feeling?" He forced a kiss from her, stripped her sweater from her torso, and they began to make love
  • after two weeks in a nearby motel, Rayette arrived by taxi the next day - unannounced; at the dinner table, her dim-wittedness, unsophisticated and redneck sensibilities were on full display; Robert was rudely exasperated and furious with her awkward presence, tossed his napkin on the table, vacated the room, and left the house

The Crude-Acting Rayette's Unexpected Arrival From a Nearby Motel Two Weeks into Robert's Family Visit

Robert's Uncharacteristic Defense of Rayette's Low-Class Behavior
  • however, when a pompous, pretentious family guest named Samia Glavia (Irene Dailey) insulted Rayette's uneducated background and personally ridiculed her in the living room in front of other guests, Robert uncharacteristically defended Rayette: ("Don't point at her, you creep!...Where the hell do you get the ass to tell anybody anything about class, or who the hell's got it, or what she typifies? You shouldn't even be in the same room with her, you pompous celibate...You're totally full of s--t. You're all full of s--t")
  • later during a heart-to-heart talk, Robert asked Catherine whether she would give him a chance and go away with him before she married Carl, but Catherine expressed her doubts about his instability; she accused him of being incapable of real feelings of love for himself or anything else ("You're a strange person, Robert. I mean, what will you come to? If a person has no love for himself, no respect for himself, no love of his friends, family, work, something - how can he ask for love in return?") - revealing Bobby's 'real' soul to him; he appeared profoundly hurt by her truthful yet distant candor
  • in the film's most powerful sequence, Robert wheeled his dying, unresponsive, invalid, mute wheel-chair bound father Nicholas into the cold outdoors of Puget Sound, as the sun set; then, at the shoreline, the choked up and emotional Bobby delivered a painful, one-sided, remorseful confession; he gave a conciliatory apology for his abandonment of his family and talent, for giving up on his responsibilities, and for not living up to his father's high ideals; unable to explain his life's failings, he broke down in tears mid-speech: ("I don't know if you'd be particularly interested in hearing anything about me, my life, I mean. Most of it doesn't add up to much that I could relate as a way of life that you'd approve of. I move around a lot. Not because I'm looking for anything, really, but - 'cause I'm getting away from things that get bad if I stay. Auspicious beginnings. You know what I mean? I'm trying to imagine your, your half of this conversation...My feeling is, I don't know, that, uh, if you could talk, we probably wouldn't be talking. That's pretty much the way it got to be before I left. Are you all right? I don't know what to say. Tita suggested that we try to - I don't know. I think that she feels - I think that she feels that we've got some understanding to reach. She totally denies the fact that we were never that comfortable with one another to begin with. The best that I can do is apologize. We both know that I was never really that good at it, anyway"); he finally admitted with sorrow: "I'm sorry it didn't work out." He slowly bowed his head
Robert's Apology to Dying, Mute Father
  • in a concluding, lengthy, and bleak scene, Robert decided to return home with Rayette after over-staying his visit; at a Gulf gas station after staring long and hard at himself in the rest-room mirror, Robert departed (without his car and wallet) and stranded Rayette; he abandoned his entire life to catch a ride north into Canada with a logging trucker (the driver warned: "Where we're going, it's gonna get colder than hell"); he responded: "No, it's okay. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine"; as the hitchhiker Palm did - he made an ill-fated decision to travel to an illusory "clean" place, to try and find himself; the final image was of Rayette standing in the front of the gas station, looking and wandering around for him
Abandoning Rayette at Gas Station

Bowling With Friends: Elton (Billy "Green Bush) and Stoney (Fannie Flagg)

At Bowling Alley, Robert Flirting with Betty (Sally Struthers) and Twinky (Marlena McGuire)

Continuing Problems With Upset Girlfriend Rayette

Robert Partying and Drinking With Twinky and Betty

Yelling at Cars During Bottleneck on Freeway

Robert's Freeway Piano Jam

Angry and Ready to Quit His Oil-Rig Job

Robert With His Sister "Tita" in an LA Recording Studio

Robert's Wild Sex With Betty

Robert Thrashing Around in an Emotional Outburst in His Parked Car

Robert Praised by Palm For Defying the Diner Waitress

At His Family's Home, 'Tita' With Ailing, Oblivious Father

Robert's Distant, Uptight Brother Carl Fidelio Dupea (Ralph Waite)

Brother Carl's Fiancee Catherine Van Oost (Susan Anspach)

Robert's Playing of a Chopin Prelude ("the easiest piece") for Catherine

A Confrontation with Catherine

Robert's Romantic Advance Toward Catherine

Catherine's Denial of Robert


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