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Five Easy Pieces

Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Billy Green Bush
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Concert pianist come oil rig worker Robert tells waitress and aspiring singer Rayette, his lover, he is "not a nice guy." (0:12)

Robert's sister Partita tells them that their father has suffered two strokes. (0:32)

Robert and Rayette discuss whether Robert is depressed, and if so, why. Robert tells Rayette, "You're not going to kill yourself this time..." (0:49)

After Robert acts up his siblings reactions betray aspects of their respective relationships with him. Partita seems to have enjoyed his behavior, but his brother Carl leaves the room in disgust. (1:02)

Pianist Catherine, confronting Robert, tells him he has no love or respect for himself. (1:25)

Robert addresses his unresponsive, and possibly uncomprehending, father, "If you could talk, we wouldn't be talking." apparently alluding to their historic inability to communicate and saying much about the value of listening. (1:27)

As Robert impulsively abandons Rayette (as well as his wallet and extra clothes) at a gas station to hitch a ride to Alaska he repeatedly reassures himself, "I'm fine. I'm fine." (1:35)

Others have suggested that Robert may exemplify a personality disorder with narcissistic or schizoid traits. Does he meet full criteria for either? He may be best understood by his role in the family's emotional process. Notably missing from the story is any reference to his mother, but his conversation with his father suggests strongly that he may have felt that his father was disappointed in him. At least two other conversations in the film suggest he suffers from low self-esteem. What might have happened in this family to make him want to not only escape the family itself but commitment to Rayette? What made him abandon a potential career as a professional musician?