Review of Easy Rider

Easy Rider (1969)
It is what it looks like
27 October 2020
By now Easy Rider is a totem for the free-livin' hippy culture of the late 1960's. A time capsule - if you will.

I grew up in the UK in the 1960's & 70's and Easy Rider was always a film I wanted to see as it had rapidly gained cult status. Rated "X" - or 18 by todays standards I had to wait until 1976 before they would let me into the cinema!

In the 44 years since I first saw it nothing has really changed. WIth some films you watch and then 20 years or more later you watch again and you think, "phew that wasn't how I remember it". Not so with Easy Rider. Even though I am now in my 60's I see this film exactly the same way I did when I was 18. Why is this?

Easy Rider speaks to the counter-cultural in me. I grew up believing that if I didn't want to conform then if I wouldn't have to. Except.... In my life I did conform (schoolteacher, now retired). We kinda have to conform - but I still believe in the counter-culture!

When you watch Easy Rider - whether the first viewing or the 10th - you are struck by how Captain America (Fonda), Billy (Hopper), and indeed Hanson (Nicholson) all express admiration for what they see as the "American Dream". In their own ways they are each products of it - but in their own ways each one is trying to break out. A key aspect of the American Dream is growing up with and nurturing the desire to "live free". The Hendrix track chosen; "If 6 was 9" speaks perfectly to this. Now here's the thing; they all want to live free - the hippies in the commune, the central characters, even the vile locals in the Louisiana roadhouse - but they can't. Why? Easy Rider is a kind of exploration of why they can't and what happens because they can't.

It's a classic roadtrip movie. Great cinematography and some classic situations. No unneccessary dialogue - indeed - the two "heroes" (anti-heroes) aren't seen to gel or come together during the piece. The story mostly moves along because of the input of the Nicholson character.

The soundtrack is excellent and makes the film what it is. In the "making of" video in the Extras on the disc we learn that Crosby, Stills and Nash were asked to write the soundtrack. Surprise! However, they watched the film with the existing songs and declared that they were blown away and could not improve on them. Bigger surprise!

Overall - Easy Rider is what it looks like; 2 stoners who like motor bike roadtrips have made a film about 2 stoners on a motor bike road trip. It's quite straightforward.

Born to be Wild? Hell yeah!
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