Synopsis: Experience the real, uncensored ’60s counterculture in this compelling mixture of drugs, sex and armchair politics. Academy Award – winner Jack Nicholson (Best Actor, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975; Best Supporting Actor, Terms of Endearment, 1983; Best Actor, As Good As It Gets, 1997) stars with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper (who also directs) in this unconventional classic which Time Magazine hails as one of the ten most important pictures of the decade.
Nominated for an Academy Award (1969) for Best Screenplay (written by Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Terry Southern) Easy Rider continues to touch a chord with audiences of all ages.
Easy Rider 7.5
George Hanson: “You know, this used to be a helluva good country. I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it.”
Billy: “Man, everybody got chicken, that’s what happened. Hey, we can’t even get into like, a second-rate hotel, I mean, a second-rate motel, you dig? They think we’re gonna cut their throat or somethin’. They’re scared, man.”
George Hanson: “They’re not scared of you. They’re scared of what you represent to ’em.”
Billy: “Hey, man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody who needs a haircut.”
George Hanson: “Oh, no. What you represent to them is freedom.”
You know, I get that ‘Easy Rider’ is a cultural landmark. I understand that it influenced a whole generation of filmmakers and affected the viewing public in ways that resonated for years to come. But it really doesn’t do much for me.
Maybe it was one of those moments in time, one of those “You had to be there” events, you know? Because, seeing it for the first time about a dozen years ago, it had absolutely no resonance with me whatsoever. I wasn’t even that impressed with Jack Nicholson’s star-making performance.
Oh, it’s not that I didn’t like it. Hardly: it’s an enjoyable road movie. But I guess that I didn’t relate to the counter-culture that these guys represented, or to the throngs of people who were inspired by and connected with the sentiments espoused by them.
‘Easy Rider’ is mostly mood. It’s an attitude. And one that I don’t really get. I don’t share that need to be out on the road, to be “free”, as they see it. I perceive freedom in a very different way, much like today’s youth have a very different view of freedom than I do (and don’t even get me started on that one! ).
So it’s mostly lots of riding around to a musical backdrop, meeting various characters along the way, chilling about in a commune, …etc. And there are lots of drugs. Of course there are: it’s the ’60s. Plus which the film starts with a cocaine transaction. In fact, it’s the deal that offers them all this financial freedom.
As a side-note, I found it funny to watch them ride around. I don’t know if their bikes were heavy, but Dennis Hopper always looks shaky on his bike, like a rickety old man about to teeter over. Meanwhile, Fonda plays it super cool, but even he has a difficult time manoeuvring his beast of a bike around.
The film is especially notable for its unusual editing choices. For instance, there are all these weird transitions between scenes that are these sort of flash cuts, flashing from one sequence into the next. It was really jarring at first, because it’s such a strange approach. I can’t help but wonder what Hopper was thinking. Or smoking.
The final, psychedelic bit in the cemetery is one of the most affecting moments of the picture and it remains, for me, one of the most memorable. I love these sequences, because it’s the closest thing I’ll ever get to taking a trip. Another notable one was the brusque ending, which I never saw coming. And, anytime I think of ‘Easy Rider’, this immediately comes to mind.
Another element that is worth mentioning is its evocative soundtrack, full of classic tunes from the era. I doubt that they could have made the movie today, given its low budget, seeing as music licensing fees have skyrocketed since. And a budget of 360 grand (or a only a few million today! ) would be entirely gutted by such musical choices.
‘Easy Rider’ may very well be a cheapie, but it was put together relatively well, all things considered. Like most groundbreakers, it would not have the same impact now that it did at the time of its release, but it remains nonetheless a nice ride. And, at the very least, it needs to be seen once; it is after all, a classic. the film of a generation.
Billy: “What the hell is wrong with freedom? That’s what it’s all about.”
George Hanson: “Oh, yeah, that’s right. That’s what’s it’s all about, all right. But talkin’ about it and bein’ it, that’s two different things. I mean, it’s real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don’t ever tell anybody that they’re not free, ’cause then they’re gonna get real busy killin’ and maimin’ to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.”
Billy: “Well, it don’t make ’em runnin’ scared.”
George Hanson: “No, it makes ’em dangerous.”