Easy Rider

1969, Movie, R, 94 mins


A must-see, if only once. More notable as a document of its times than as a piece of cinema, EASY RIDER is slack but powerful, sentimental yet scathing, experimental but predictable.

A tale of two men searching for a freedom they can never attain, the film features Fonda and Hopper as Wyatt and Billy, a pair of hippie bikers who journey to New Orleans, hoping to arrive in time for Mardi Gras. On the way, the duo encounter rebuffs at various motels because of their way-out appearance, a hitchhiker who takes them back to the sun-drenched revels of his commune, and a squeaky-clean Texas parade. Arrested for joining the latter, the pair meets up with drunken civil-rights lawyer George Hanson (Jack Nicholson, enjoying the film's most well-rounded part and giving its best performance, one which earned him an Oscar nomination and finally made him a star). Now a trio, the men suffer beatings from local rednecks, but Hanson also gets to enjoy his first joint, which prompts one of the film's most memorable moments--Hanson's tongue-in-cheek theory that Venusians have already landed on Earth and occupy several important posts. Billy and Wyatt finally make it to New Orleans and find that their journey to the freewheeling world of Fat Tuesday (including an LSD-laced jaunt to a cemetery) has not brought them any happiness or sense of direction. The animosity the pair have dealt with throughout reaches its peak at the film's famous ending, as the film attempts to martyr its quasi-religious antiheroes.

A finely observed film but insufficiently developed as a satire of middle America, EASY RIDER seemed the paragon of hip rebellion at the time of its release; in retrospect, its worldview seems closer to whining self-pity. leave a comment

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