Movie of the Week: “Easy Rider”

Easy Rider, directed by Dennis Hopper.

What is the big whoopee about “Easy Rider”? I mean, c’mon, two guys on motorcycles, selling a stash of drugs to pay for a road trip across the country to New Orleans. It’s 1969. They aren’t even hippies. They’re capitalists and their product is cocaine. And the love they’re getting ain’t free. It’s a coupla hookers they pick up in New Orleans during Mardi Gras.

Give me a break. These two guys riding down the highways of America on bikes, their hair blowing in the wind. Was that the freedom all those boys were dying for in Vietnam?

They’re out to see America and we’re out to see it too. What could be more American than touring the sights with these two fellas, easygoing Captain America and uptight Billy the Kid? One can almost hear the voice of Horace Greeley himself, advising, “Go East, Young Man” as the two take their leave of California and cross the Colorado River.

They get to camp out, like boy scouts, and they get to ride those bikes like John Wayne and his pardners rode their horses. They could be outlaws if they had lived a century earlier. But they’re just wannabee outlaws. The clothes they wear are what the fashion-conscious Hollywood celebs might think would be appropriate to see America in. You just gotta love those designer sunglasses Peter Fonda wraps around his eyes.

Along the way they pick up a hitch hiker. A real hippie who thinks Porky Pig would be the thing to be. Takes the two on a detour to a commune. It’s a bit of a Noah’s Ark of a place what with the animals and the people. At least, the barn they are staying in looks like what the ark might have looked like. Then it’s back on the road again for the two wannabees.

The only thing I envied about Captain America and his partner were the motorcycles. Those were not motorcycles hippies would fly away on. They cost too much bread for any hippie. Then there was Jack Nicholson wearing that stupid helmet, riding behind Captain America. He was Jack being Jack as only Jack can be. Guess that was why he won that Academy Award. Nobody could do Jack better’n Jack.

It has one real downer of an ending. Kind of like a bad trip. They take a wrong turn and all heck breaks loose. Some might say the pair got their just end for their sins. Or maybe that’s what happens when you take a road trip in America.

But the music. Now that is something. That is something with a capital S. It was 1969 when I saw it, and it was the best music. The best I had ever heard in a movie that was not a musical. The movie’s titles start title-ing and the soundtrack cracks into one good road trip song, “Born to be wild” by Steppenwolf. There was Dylan, there was Hendrix, there was the Byrds and there was the Band doing one of my all time favs.

I had never heard “The Weight” before the movie. That darn fine piece of music laid the movie’s story out for me and it was off and running with “I pulled into Nazareth.” The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Later I bought the album and somebody else was doing that song. I took that vinyl and broke it into pieces. How could they cheat me like that?

Still the movie doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts. Some parts you like and some make you shake your head, wondering. All I know was that I walked out of that movie, thinking what was that. But then again, what isn’t that?

Is there a movie you think is way overrated by both critics and viewers?

11 thoughts on “Movie of the Week: “Easy Rider”

    • It’s always seemed that the movie was made by a Hollywood pro for other Hollywood pros for the money he could squeeze out of them. It didn’t hurt that the critics went gaa-gaa.

  1. It wasn’t just the movie. Hippies always posed as the people they wanted to be but couldn’t quite figure out how to become. They had a great saying though, “We are the people our parents warned us about.” Now they are saying, “We have become the people we warned ourselves about.”

    The Big Chill was another overrated movie with great music. About ten minutes in, it suddenly struck me that these were the kind of characters who never gave anyone else the time of day back in high school and college. They were too hip and self-adsorbed for that. The music was not new but the instant you heard it, you realized you had let go of some great stuff because you got all carried away with the sound track of Easy Rider. 🙂

  2. Hey man, don’t be raggin on the 60s man. Even if it was the late 60s. Your bummin me out! Lol!
    Enjoyed your piece on easy rider. I agree it was a mix of hit and miss scenes. And you are so right, the music was awesome!
    Gotta say, I love your blog. You’ve created a nice world here, that I’m glad I’ve found. Feel a touch of Garison Keyler, only its uncle Bardie. Even better!
    So keepa coolie baby!

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