Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) have a dream. It is to live their lives how they want, but don't have the money to do so. Therefore, they broker a drugs deal to get enough money to begin their journey across America to mardi-gras and beyond. That's it, the whole plot. Thing is, this is a road movie so the story is pretty organic. Places, people and events that Wyatt and Billy come across feed the movie with interest, rather than the written word. Indeed most of the dialogue seems to be ad-libbed in keeping with this ideal.
I never felt comfortable watching this movie - there was always something in shot, or implied, that set my teeth on edge. Which is, I suppose, the whole point of the movie - explained very well by a completely intoxicated Jack Nicholson (playing George Hanson) at one point. Paraphrasing his dialogue, George Hanson says to Billy that aspiring to freedom is all well and good, but being confronted by some one frightens people and makes them dangerous.
Maybe that's why I always felt perturbed watching this movie, maybe I'm one of those people? Perhaps, but I am not so sure. You see, this movie is full of allegory and symbolism which forces you to look more deeply than the movie itself. Each person will probably identify with a different message Easy Rider puts across, making a “correct” review difficult. For me Easy Rider was an edgy, jarring movie where the “free” American easy riders are more locked into their destiny than the people they meet along the way. Mainly this is due to Billy, who casts a dark pall over Easy Rider like he's the bringer of doom upsetting any equilibrium that Wyatt may have found on their travels. This culminates in a wonderfully surreal acid induced section which is very upsetting and in many ways portentous. It reminded me more of The Prisoner, or Twin Peaks than America's spirit. Peter Fonda's performance during this scene is charged with raw emotion as he talks, tears streaming his face, to a statue (see extras). I suppose that my interpretation of this movie has contemporary leanings to what's going on in the world of politics. The fact that the movie is still so neatly applicable today, though, is saying something indeed.
I must say that, despite the symbolism that this movie represents: perceived freedom in America, racism, segregation - whatever, I didn't enjoy it much. This is a bit strange as the messages that are put across are all laudable and easily understood, if not particularly definable (if you have read this far into the review, then you see what I mean!). I reckon as times have moved on this type of movie has been left behind. The slow pace, at times breathtakingly bad editing (look for those “jumpy” transitions) and unstructured dialogue make Easy Rider a difficult movie to enjoy. You can have a deep culturally important message in a movie if that movie is engaging. Unfortunately Easy Rider isn't and that is why, classic or not, I don't like it.
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