Easy Rider (1969)
“A man went looking for America. And couldn’t find it anywhere..”
Easy Rider (1969)
Director: Dennis Hopper
Cast: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson
Synopsis: Two counterculture bikers travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans in search of America.
Although it’s still as iconic as it ever was, there’s no getting away from the fact that Easy Rider is a movie that has aged badly. Having said that, it’s clear that it wasn’t a particularly good movie in the first place; Co-star and director Dennis Hopper (Rebel Without a Cause, The Sons of Katie Elder) is on record as admitting he was out of his head on drugs while shooting the movie, and both Peter Fonda (Futureworld, 3:10 to Yuma) and Hopper have admitted that they made most of the script up as they went along. They didn’t really have to tell us, to be honest; it’s obvious these guys are winging it on screen. Hopper says ‘maaan’ so many times he begins to sound like one of those comedy stoners, while Peter Fonda follows the wiser path of only speaking when he absolutely has to.
It’s all about freedom, and the prejudice faced by those who choose to lead a counter-culture lifestyle, but it’s difficult to admire or sympathise with those who found their principles of freedom on the back of a drugs deal. They ride across country heading from Mexico to New Orleans, and encounter all manner of characters along the way. Most of them are trippy, but Jack Nicholson (The Shining, The Departed) at least brings some energy to the role of an alcoholic lawyer who comes to realise he’s been restrained by social codes he no longer believes in. Cycle enthusiasts and ageing hippies might get a kick out of Easy Rider, but everyone else will be bored or dismayed by its indefensibly elevated reputation.
(Reviewed 17th December 2014)