The next drama title for review in the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book is this generation-defining film that not only stars Dennis Hopper, but he directed it, and wrote the script with co-star Peter Fonda and Terry Southern.
Fonda plays Wyatt, though he’s referred to through the entire film as Captain America, due to his helmet, jacket and bike all decorated with the stars and stripes, while Hopper plays Billy. After scoring a large amount of cash in a drug deal before the opening credits, (the connection is played by Phil Spector) the two of them mount their bikes, 1962 1200cc Harley’s and head out of California, heading cross-country to attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
Neither of them seem to fit completely into their time, Wyatt is more relaxed with his environ, more open about the world and the people around him, while Billy seems angry, and rages against all of society, even those on the fringe.
With a kick-ass soundtrack, the world that is late 60s America sprawls across the screen, as the boys roar across the screen, smoking up, meeting people from all walks of life, including a commune filled with hippies, small-town, small-minded folks that see Wyatt and Billy as a threat, and a lawyer who wants to get away from it all with them in the form of George Hanson (Jack Nicholson).
No matter where they stop, neither of them seem to completely fit in. It would seem that the two of them would never be happy without the road before them and the wind in their hair.
The film is loosely stitched together, with a script that seemed to be changing daily as Fonda and Hopper traveled, as such there is a bit of a documentary feel to it. It definitely won’t appeal to everyone, but the imagery, the music, and the trio of actors definitely held my attention.
There is some interesting editing as scenes change, they intercut with one another, flashing forward and back before the transition completes, suggesting that Wyatt and Billy are very much out of their own time, they can’t find their place in this modern America, and honestly, there may not be a place for them.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. It felt like an honest look back at a time just before I was born, and how amazingly different the culture was at the time, and how quickly things were changing.
It’s an interesting film, a wonderful road movie, and it shows three actors reflecting their times, and their characters meet the fates that undoubtedly would have befallen many during the time. And that amazing soundtrack!
The ending is shockingly abrupt, and left me stunned, but it did make perfect sense for the characters. And that last shot and pull away… loved it.
Have you seen this one?