182: Easy Rider

Easy Rider (R) - 1969 - Runtime: 95 minutes
Starring: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson
Director: Dennis Hopper

I was really looking forward to seeing this movie. It's been referenced in countless other movies and TV shows. So I was ready to delve into this provocative road trip through the American south. Instead, I found an agonizing and painful journey that really seems out of touch with my idea of America and frankly, this movie doesn't hold up too well after forty years.

To sum up the plot - Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper play two counterculture (This damn phrase keeps popping up every time I read about the movie. I hate the word now, it's completely irrelevant today) bikers who are trying to find the freedom, both financially and spiritually, that only America can provide. They travel from L.A. to New Orleans on their bikes and run into several bumps along the way. It seems like this would be cool - some wide open shots of the badlands and mountains of America's southern region and some great songs accompanying those shots while they ride through them. And for the most part, that stuff is pretty good, but the rest of the movie just seems to meander around and only elevates to the level of a bad college film. I mean, there's practically no acting - Peter Fonda just coolly looks around at the scenery while Dennis Hopper bugs out and says "dude" a lot. The only real piece of acting is Jack Nicholson, who probably portrays the only real character with any depth. I can understand why this movie vaulted his career.

I really don't know what to take from the movie, other than that the American dream is dead or never was real. That freedom doesn't truly exist in our country. I guess this movie was supposed to show the counterculture (there's that damn word again!) happening in the country at the end of the 60s. It was such a turbulent time and all that, but I just found this movie to be a bit dull and not at all entertaining. And one of the worst parts of the movie is how they portray the south. Aside from Nicholson's character, every single person portrayed in the south is nothing but an ignorant, racist and homophobic redneck. There's not one redeeming value in all the people they meet. It's pretty sad that they all lumped a huge swath of Americans under this stereotype. I actually read on Wikipedia (thanks useless knowledge database!) that Rip Torn was originally supposed to play Nicholson's part, but after Hopper made some derogatory remarks about southern hicks, Torn (who is from Texas) almost started a fight at their meeting and promptly left the picture.

This movie was written by Fonda and Hopper and I'm pretty sure they wrote it while they were high. I can only hazard that it's on AFI's top 100 list simply because of it's cultural impact. I guess it started a new wave of avant-garde and independent films from American artists. It's too bad because I really don't think it's entertaining at all. There's a really dumb LSD bad trip sequence that looked like it was shot by someone experimenting with a camera for the first time. It was just utter nonsense that went on way too long. Skip this one unless you really want to have your own bad trip.

Rating: Avoid Like the Plague!

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