Film Review by: Ashley Shepherd
Easy Rider, a film directed by Dennis Hopper, follows ‘captain America’ (Wyatt) and his ‘sidekick’ Billy as they travel the states by motorcycle. The two friends start off in Los Angeles and their end game is to get to New Orleans where Mardi Gras is held. Along the way, Wyatt and Billy pick up a hitchhiker who is looking for a ride to get back to his family and friends. They eventually get to the hitchhikers’ hippy settlement where he and his hippy friends help out natives living off the land. The movie spends quite a bit of time at the hippy settlement, which shows the viewer that groups of people like these do exist and they are not just made up. This type of culture is a part of America and should not be ignored.
After leaving the mountains of the settlement, Wyatt and Billy find themselves in jail with a drunk named George. George is a successful lawyer with a family, but often stays the night in jail because of his drinking problem. While keeping the theme of this movie in mind, George shows the viewer that just because he seems to be a rich and successful lawyer doesn’t mean his life consists of happiness and being sober. During their first encounter with George, he mentions that he can help the two friends get out of jail with ease, unless they murdered a white man. He then mentions that if they murdered a black man that he could still help them. Through this, it is clear that the director of the film wanted to expose how backwards and racist southern culture is. George then tags along with Wyatt and Billy on their west to east road trip.
Their next main stop is Louisiana. The three hippy looking men step into a diner on the side of the road and are instantly uncomfortable. Old men and police officers continue to stare at them and constantly insult them. On the other hand, a booth full of girls find the hippies to be dreamy and attractive. During this scene, George says to Wyatt and Billy that they are hated on because they represent freedom. This is a statement on the southern culture and how the younger individuals are more open-minded to these hippy roadsters, while the older folks are totally against their looks and what they represent. Following this, Wyatt and Billy make it to the famous whore house that George had spoken about. It is notable that Billy is just looking for sex while Wyatt wants to hang out and buy a drink for the woman he was presented. This shows the diversity in the biker culture. Billy and Wyatt are both bikers who live on the road yet they are completely different. Billy is constantly paranoid, high, not optimistic. Wyatt on the other hand is a caring, insightful and optimistic man, who wants more out of life than just experiencing Mardi Gras. Easy Rider is a film that comments on America and its culture. Hopper shows us the diversity of cultures that exist in America. There is an emphasis on the conservative south culture in particular. The film makes it seem like the close mindsets of the south are holding us as a county back from growing our diversity.
Dennis Hoppers film also displays the theme of freedom in America. Every time Wyatt and Billy hop on their motorcycles, popular hit music from the rock and roll genre is played. The music has a good beat to it and lyrics that catalyze an open mind. This gives the viewer a sense of feeling good when the characters are just riding along across the country as the sun is setting looking at the beauty of the landscape. This makes the idea of freedom very attractive.
Wyatt and Billy are played by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper respectively. The two actors do an excellent job playing the parts of two care-free hippies. A few times in the film, the camera angles and movement resemble actual eye movements of Wyatt. Because of this, most of the movie can be said to be from his perspective. Wyatt is constantly observing his surroundings and just seems to be taking it all in, especially while at the hippy settlement.
I believe every person should see this movie, unless not age appropriate of course. We live in a time where diversity is inevitable and the close mindedness of certain cultures will halt the growth of our country. There are many laughs and humorous situations, especially with George. Funny, American pride, hippy, road film, and drugs, are just a few words to describe this film.