Instant Classic

Paramount Theatre's Summer 2000 Series


D: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper; with Fonda, Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Luke Askew. (R, 94 min.)

1969's Easy Rider became so synonymous with redneck rage that it is still used to describe Southern intolerance. That's a shame, because the story of two young men (Fonda and Hopper) and their trek across America is the perfect road movie of the Sixties, often imitated but never equaled. Peter Fonda was the scion of one of Hollywood's most beloved stars, Henry Fonda, but Easy Rider was no Grapes of Wrath. Young Fonda had been making a name for himself in Sixties exploitation films like The Trip when he put together a cast of unknowns that included Nicholson, Karen Black, Luana Anders, producer Phil Spector, and new wave choreographer Toni Basil. The script was a reflection of the cocaine-as-candy times -- the search for truth and meaning while having a little fun along the way -- and dates itself almost laughably in its lingo and look. But there's a sweet bravery to its innocence and a low-budget authenticity that rings true enough to overcome the stereotypes it perpetuates. The LSD scene in a New Orleans graveyard is accurately trippy, but nothing is as memorable in the film as Nicholson, the likkered-up lawyer who hitches a ride with Fonda and Hopper and turns in a career-making performance. (8/31-9/1)

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