A criminal pleads insanity and is admitted to a mental institution, where he rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.A criminal pleads insanity and is admitted to a mental institution, where he rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.A criminal pleads insanity and is admitted to a mental institution, where he rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.
Milos Forman directs this all-time classic, which swept the Oscars deservedly, and holds up so well 25 years later. It is a simplistic film about small people living in their own small worlds. Manic moments are mixed with poignant acting all leading to an astounding climax. Not before or since CUCKOO'S NEST has a collection of different characters had such an impact on me. You could write a book report about each of the patients in the ward. The two most important people here are, of course, Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher.
Nicholson has his greatest moments in this picture. One brilliant scene has him doing an imaginary play-by-play commentary of the 1963 World Series to the group, who are not allowed to watch the game on TV. It is a poetic sequence and Nicholson goes crazy with his delivery, describing baseball with colorful anecdotes and profanity. "McMurphy" immediately makes an impression on the crazies and shows them how they don't have to stick to the "normal routine". He knows their names right away, he sprays them with water, he makes impossible bets with them, he introduces them to fishing, and he even gets a suffering young kid (played well by Brad Dourif) a "date".
Louise Fletcher plays one of the more reprehensible human beings in film as "Nurse Mildred Ratched". She is a hardened woman, one who makes the daily meetings with the group a contest to see who will win. Her stubbornness and lack of compassion for the poor guys is rather one dimensional. That's perfect because that is exactly who she is. Her strong will to keep things monotonous leads to a final showdown with the free spirited "McMurphy" in what is easily one of the most shocking and disturbing climaxes in recent memory.
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST does not try to make a statement about mental illness or how the unstable should be treated. Rather, it is a very simple portrait of the long days and hilarious scenarios that can come about when a mixed bag of suffering people are thrown together. Mental illness is nothing to laugh about, but the fact that Nicholson is not really crazy (at least in my opinion) allows us to be amused. He seems to love his compadres in the hospital. He is mislead, however, into thinking he can do as he pleases.
There is no denying the power of CUCKOO'S NEST. The two main powerhouse performances are golden, the cinematography is morbid and gritty like it should be, the "Chief" is great as Nicholson's right hand, ah, protagonist, and you care a lot about what will happen as the film moves on. The famous, final shot ironically happens to be an exit of a major character into that bleak, Oregon morning.
NOTE: I have never read the book and I find it hard to believe author Ken Kesey has never watched the filmed version. Comparing a book to a movie is impossible. They are 2 distinctly different artistic methods of story-telling.
- Jan 22, 2000