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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Oh Nicholson

Author: brogan-stanford from United Kingdom
7 December 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jack Nicholson's mere presence in this picture was enough to bring this production to the screen, after the novel written by Ken Kesey was dubbed as 'unfilmable'; once Nicholson had his name on the contract, Hollywood took over. Nicholson's performance granted him an Oscar with acknowledgements that he was born to play the role of a misfit gone crazy when admitted into an insane asylum. The picture was moving yet simple and funny and was labelled as a dramatic masterpiece as it highlighted society's distorted outlook on the 'mentally unstable' and eventually won the 'top five' Oscars and was the second film in history to do so. This could never have been achieved if Nicholson's reputation had not got the ball rolling on this project in the first place. This picture was rightly the definition of the character that Nicholson should play and made him the top choice to play Jack Torrance in The Shining and the Joker in the 1989 interpretation of Batman.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Definitely a classic from the 70's

Author: illbebackreviews from Australia
2 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The 1970's is a decade filled with absolute classic films! The decade brought to us movies like Godfather, Star Wars, Taxi Driver, horror movies like Halloween and the Exorcist and much more. It also brought to us One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

For a long time, I've been wanting to watch this movie hearing all the praise its being receiving. My favorite thing about the film is the casting! Jack Nicholson, Danny de Vito, Christopher Lloyd and Brad Dourif. These are actors that I've loved from different films! I loved Jack in the Shining, De Vito in Matilda, Lloyd in Back to the Future and Dourif in Lord of the Rings and Child's Play. To see all these actors unite for this one classic film was just awesome, not to mention that Lloyd, De Vito and Dourif are about 30 years younger than I remember them!

Now, the story is an extremely interesting one. Its about a man named McMurphy who admits to being insane in order to live his life at a much more friendly place, a mental institute. Here, he begins to change the lives of all the other patients and realizes that Nurse Ratching is holding each of them back. The story may certainly start off slow, but to me, seeing Nicholson act the way he did was good enough for the whole film. I really enjoyed that. The film also spends considerably amount of time with the characters McMurphy and Chief, developing their relationship but also giving plenty of screen time to Dourif's stuttering character!

Now this 120 minute movie could've been shortened but really the way the film works is by giving the relationships between characters time to develop.

Overall this is certainly worth a viewing.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

brilliant and difficult

Author: dartleyk from United States
30 October 2012

an iconoclastic book crafted into a brilliant but difficult movie; obvious cudos to nicholson (back when he was acting), screenplay, direction; shooting is average; oddly, was recently shown (nov '12) on tcm as part of their series on handicapped, disability in film; the strange take being that films showing demented people (or crippled people, or otherwise disabled people) are somehow off, not true, not up to par; the PC culture reigns supreme- even, according to tcm, for movies set in the 17th century, like bedlam; as though best years of our lives should not have shown homer with no hands- even though the book it's from showed him with a horrible series of much more disturbing problems; so if you approach the movie with that PC view in mind it's so flawed; on the other hand it's a tight look at the individual versus the system, the loner versus the crowd, what you think you should do even when everyone says you should not; the late 60's-early 70's message, unfortunately, is that you lose- as though it presages the coming of the nanny state, the transposing of jfk's what you can do for your country to obama's what can your country do for you;though there are many movies about asylums and dementia, this one stays almost till the end on the edge of sane or not; that's what makes it interesting

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The spirit of freedom vs. the spirit of legal-ism

Author: Wuchak from Ohio/PA border
21 October 2012

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) is a film you'll appreciate more as you mature. I saw it a few times when I was younger and, while I thought it was good, I didn't 'get' a lot of the insights the film conveys. Viewing it again recently, I 'got' it.

Set in the early 60s, the story involves R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) and his arrival at a mental institution in Salem, Oregon (where the film was shot). He plays the "mental illness" card to get out of prison time, thinking it'll be a piece of cake, but he's wrong, very wrong. Everything appears well at the hospital and Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) seems to be a benevolent overseer of McMurphy's ward, but there are sinister things going on beneath the surface.

The movie criticizes the way institutions deal with mental illnesses. Their "therapy" is futile and only makes the patients dependent on the institution itself, thereby creating its need for existence (at the taxpayer's expense). McMurphy is a threat to the establishment and therefore must be "dealt with."

A lot of people criticize the film by suggesting that Nurse Ratched "isn't that bad" or that "she was only trying to do her job", etc. I had the same reaction the first couple of times I saw it. This reveals an aspect of the film's brilliance: Ratched's malevolence is so subtle that the filmmakers allow the possibility for complete misinterpretation. Yes, from an administrative point of view, she seemingly does a good job, she's authoritarian without being sadistic, and she cares for the residents as long as they follow the rules (more on this below). Yet she is absolutely demonic as a robotized arm of a dehumanizing system. She maintains the residents in a state of oblivion and marginalization; they are deprived of their dignity because the system sees them as subhuman.

The filmmakers and Fletcher make Nurse Ratched a more effective antagonist by showing restraint. Compare this to, say, Faye Dunaway's portrayal of Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest," which pretty much turned her into a cartoon villain. Ratched isn't such an obvious sadist, yet she uses the rules to tyrannize the men and reduce them to an almost infantile state of dependency and subservience. Her crowning achievement is Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif).

McMurphy, despite his obvious flaws, is the protagonist of the story. Although he's impulsive and has a weakness for the female gender, which got him into prison in the first place, he has a spirit of freedom and life. His problem is that he needs to learn a bit of wisdom; then he can walk in his freedom without causing unnecessary harm to himself and others.

Nurse Ratched, on the other hand, represents legal-ism, which is an authoritarian spirit obsessed with laws or rules. This is clearly seen in the World Series sequence: Even though McMurphy gets the final vote he needs for his ward to watch the Series Ratched refuses to allow it on a technicality. When McMurphy then PRETENDS to watch the game and works the guys up into a state of euphoria, Ratched reacts with sourpuss disapproval. That's because legalism is the opposite of the spirit of freedom, life and joy. Legalism is all about putting on appearances and enforcing the LETTER of the law (or rule). The problem with this is that "appearances" are not about reality and, worse, "the letter kills."

Despite his folly and mistakes, McMurphy does more good for the guys in his ward than Ratched and the institution could do in a decade. How so? Not only because he has a spirit of freedom and life, but because he loves deeply, but only those who deserve it – the humble – not arrogant abusers. When you cast restraint to the wind and love with all your heart you'll reap love in return, as long as the person is worthy. A certain person hugs McMurphy at the end because he loves him. McMurphy set him free from the shackles of mental illness and, worse, the institution that refuses to actually heal because it needs mentally ill people to exist; it only goes through the motions of caring and healing (not that there aren't any good people in such institutions, of course).

No review of this film is complete without mentioning the notable character of Chief, played effectively by Will Sampson.

The film runs 2 hour and 13 minutes.


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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Not as good as the book

Author: floydfan45 from United States
9 February 2007

I am an avid reader, and adhere to the belief that books paint a much more beautiful portrait than a movie ever can. And so when I finished reading One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, I rented the movie, because I heard that it is one of the greatest films ever made. The characters are well cast and Nicholson's performance is haunting, but I was too distracted by all the deviations from Ken Kesey's novel to enjoy it fully. I recommend this film, but would strongly suggest that anyone touched by it should read the book afterward. In this way a deep meaning can be imbibed from the film, and by reading the book, the meaning will be reaffirmed and solidified on a more grandiose scale.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Fans of novel should lighten up

Author: hmmm...boy from Norwich, Engalnd
24 November 2000

This film should be thought of as a re-imagining of the book. It may be different to the novel, but so what. The film is a good film, a separate entity to the book. When a director adapts a book to the big screen, a better film is made when they're not working within the boundaries of someone elses perception, after all, whats the point of having a carbon copy of the book on screen? Jack Nicholson is nearly always great, and it has some great impacts when its shifting from scene to scene, funny then depressing, a microcosm of emotions, a clasic film, I loved it

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Flawless as an example of cinematic craft; unparalleled as an examination of corruption and how the mind works.

Author: Science_Fantasy_Guy from Australia
24 January 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Released in 1975, Milos Forman's staggering film of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (adapted from Ken Kesey's equally brilliant semi-autobiographical 1962 novel) remains arguably the most relevant, accurate and powerful cinematic analysis of mental illness and corruption of power ever. It became just the second film ever to win the five major Academy Awards and was shown in Swedish cinemas for 12 years, which remains a national record in Sweden. Yet at the time the critical reception of the movie was still rather uneven (though deservedly that's improved over time), and Kesey vehemently refused to watch it as the story wasn't told from the point of view of Chief Bromden like it is in the novel.

But what a film it is. After fighting for more than a decade to get the film made, producers Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas (largely influenced by his father Kirk, who first acquired the film rights) had developed a strong affection for the story and once they had the financing they hired Czech director Milos Forman, the only director they encountered who shared their affection for Kesey's story. It isn't hard to see why, and as Forman spent the majority of his formative years and the early part of his career living under a totalitarian regime in Czechoslovakia after losing his parents in Auschwitz and Buchenwald as a child, Forman proved to be the perfect director to bring to the screen this story of silenced and very often misunderstood people existing in such circumstances who are slowly inspired to take a stand. Forman's direction is a thing of sheer mastery: tender yet honest in the sequences involving McMurphy's (Jack Nicholson) relationship with his fellow patients, raw in the sequences revolving around Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), a usually calm but unknowingly corrupt and dictatorial woman who thinks she's doing what's in her patients' best interests and how she runs the ward and treats her patients, unflinching but sympathetic in its depiction of the ravages mental illnesses inflict on those who suffer from them, and all those qualities in the emotionally draining yet tremendously inspiring climax. Forman simply outdid himself here.

But of course, every director is only as good (or bad) as the cast and crew they have to work with, and Forman's is flawless. Starting with the cast, he garners three of the most perfect displays of acting in cinematic history. McMurphy was the role Nicholson was born to play, and while he's a force of nature in the scenes involving McMurphy squaring off with Nurse Ratched, his more subtle scenes where he depicts the changes in him caused by the institution and his fellow patients in whom he provoked a change first are the ones that truly assure him a place among the true all-time legends (and the fact that he and Forman had a fiery relationship just makes his turn even more unbelievable). He's never been better before or since, and as brilliant as Al Pacino is in Dog Day Afternoon I'm firmly in Team McMurphy. Fletcher is every bit as good as the sadistic Nurse Ratched who tries to clip the free-spirited McMurphy's wings – it's an incredibly controlled performance, because while a lesser actress would have played her like an overbearing battleaxe, Fletcher is chilling because of her sincerity. Yet even despite how truly frightening Fletcher is she also manages to make the viewer feel a small amount of sympathy for Nurse Ratched by simultaneously playing her as a woman who's really just trying to do her job even though she's oblivious to the negative impact she's had on those in her care. Also, Brad Dourif pulls off one of the most astounding supporting turns in movie history as Billy Bibbitt, a stuttering (and thus exploited) teenager who proves to be the catalyst for Nurse Ratched's downfall at the hands of McMurphy, and William Redfield (who sadly died shortly after the movie was released) and Sydney Lassick are also superb as the schizophrenic Harding and bipolar Cheswick.

Bo Goldman and Laurence Hauben's screenplay is one of the few that, I think it can be said, against which most others are measured. With great eloquence, insight, power and intelligence (and no cheese or sentimentality) they collectively crafted a screenplay that never waters down the ugly things that are mental illnesses, gives the viewer/reader a greater understanding of the effects (both negative and also positive) they have on those who suffer from them and also what causes corruption, it celebrates the rebels of the world who fight the establishment for the greater good as well as themselves, and perhaps most importantly it shows the mentally ill not as not as complete caricatures (because often such depictions of the mentally ill are, it must be said, accurate ones), but as people who can achieve anything (even if they need a little guidance).

Two other enormous bright spots are Jack Nitzsche's amazing score which is somehow mesmerizing in its musical simplicity (and it surely would've scooped the movie's sixth Oscar had Jaws come out in any other year) and Haskell Wexler's beautifully evocative cinematography.

Countless similar films before and since have explored rebellion against corrupt authority figures and the inner workings of the human mind what makes us all tick, but One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest will forever be the cinematic depiction of life in a "loony bin" (as McMurphy puts it) to end them all. After more than thirty years it remains an absolutely flawless, definitive, knockout masterpiece, and one of the five most deserving Best Picture Oscar winners of all. And is that the greatest climax of a Best Picture winner ever or is that the greatest climax of a Best Picture winner ever?

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:


Author: peteranderson from United Kingdom
15 January 2006

An average effort, but a brilliant cast.

This brilliant cast consisted of Jack Nicholson, Danny Devito and Louise Fletcher.

I was expecting better- Acting was average, funny and talented in parts yet dreadfully bad in others. Fletcher certainly didn't deserve an Oscar for that. She gave the weak, feeble performance but didn't deserve an Oscar. Nicholson shouldn't have been cats in the film seeing as how supposedly good he is. He didn't shine. Nobody else in the cast shone either.

Genre- Was quite amusing in parts and dramatic in others. I thought the genre was done well and some particularly dramatic scenes were done really well, not Oscar winning but well.

Overall, a very average effort and very average results.

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7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

nice, but...

Author: robot-cat from Llano, TX
15 February 2004

the book was much better. vastly overrated here on imdb (it's #12 right now.) probably wouldn't make my top 100. If you like early Nicholson you should check out The Last Detail. I thought it was much better than Cuckoo's.


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7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:


Author: diffusionx from New Jersey
23 June 2000

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a movie that bitterly dissapointed me. I suppose it was alright, but with all the praise it has received (including being so high on IMDB's list), I expected more than I got.

The main problem I had with the movie was that I didn't care for the characters at all. Sure, there were some scenes that were interesting and provided a nice glimpse into one character or the other, but, for the most part, I couldn't find a way to sympathize with any of them. Jack Nicholson did alright in this film, but, at times, I actually disliked his character and what he was doing. As for the other people in the ward, they did a good job, but, again, I just didn't sympathize with them. Louise Fletcher, however, did a superb job as Nurse Ratchet; her icy demeanor was perfect. Again, though, I just didn't, well... dislike her.

I didn't find the plot, flow, or atmosphere to be strong enough to make up for the apathy I felt towards the characters (and one would guess that, in a movie such as this, it's critical to one's enjoyment that they care about the characters). While there were some great scenes in the movie, those scenes just weren't enough for me to really like the movie. I thought the movie was overall, bland and uninteresting, and certainly not deserving of all the praise it received.

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