Do you like American road trips and 1960s rock? Well…
Easy Rider follows Wyatt and Billy as they bike and smoke their way through the American Southwest and meet various interesting characters. There is not much other story than that. But there is some meaning…
Easy Rider is often credited with helping spark the New Hollywood movement and the success of films to come in that period. I didn’t see it because of this. I saw Easy Rider because it has Jack Nicholson and Steppenwolf. But I got a lot more? A bit more? Less more? I’m not sure? This movie is interesting? Or is it? I still don’t know?
The film starts in the dead center of these bikers lives. They’re driving from A to B with two radical looking uncomfortamobiles (uncomfortable automobiles) and a seemingly infinite supply of marijuana. B is a Mardi Gras parade and A is an… A.
Easy Rider‘s beginning half can be easily written down as a simple structure of bikers driving in beautiful scenery against 1960s American rock just before a scene involving marijuana in the dark and repeat. But once the two main characters reach a certain town, the movie starts to become genuinely interesting. The visual aspects were great beforehand and the characters were there but they weren’t exactly getting me invested but once they reached the halfway point of the film, I became invested. It’s also when Jack Nicholson is first shown on screen. Coincidence? I think NOT!
I won’t give away any story spoilers or events past that point but I will say that Easy Rider doesn’t follow any typical form of story structure. The story does have events and twists just like any other film but there is no introduction, body and conclusion. There’s just life, philosophy, pain, Jack Nicholson, drugs, philosophy and life. And Jack Nicholson.
The second half continues to follow the two main leads and Jack Nicholson on the road but they’re genuine and believable banter (which by the way was apparently aided by legitimate marijuana) becomes more meaningful and watchable than before.
A story in a film is usually built from events and the events that are triggered because of those events. Easy Rider consists of events that are just breezes in the wind of mundanity that trigger psychedelic conversations that trigger a quick edit to the next scene. On paper, this sounds like a very light and repetitive structure… and it is. But the conversations and the meanings and morals presented by those conversations do make a watchable film.
The performances are interesting in this film. Peter Fonda plays his biker well except he does seem to sometimes overdo the silent personality by being silent with his body as well as his words. Dennis Hopper (who also directed the film) plays his biker with a welcomed overdoing. He plays a bumbling stoner who likes to hang out with Peter Fonda and do what Fonda does with more humour and he does it great. Jack Nicholson is just perfect in Easy Rider. As always, Jack Nicholson steals the show with his unavoidable and insane energetic face and persona.
The scenery is amazing in Easy Rider although the camera they used to shoot it wasn’t. They were shooting beautiful images of pink skies over American canyons but it looks like they shot it with a mobile phone.
The soundtrack is incredible. I searched for the soundtrack on iTunes but it wasn’t there so I’ve instead just made a private YouTube playlist with all the songs for later use because dear god the music is incredible. The film uses songs from Steppenwolf, The Byrds and The Jimi Hendrix Experience to inspire many epic road trip mixtapes in the years that followed. THANK YOU EASY RIDER!
Easy Rider doesn’t follow a simple 3 act structure and it doesn’t follow the idea of a constantly moving story. It does however admire and abuse the idea of a constantly meaningful story with an amazing road trip mixtape soundtrack, great scenery shot with bad hands and Jack Nicholson. Gotta love Jack Nicholson.
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