My Reviews: One Flew Over the Cuckoo`s Nest
R. P. McMurphy is one of my favorite movie characters and probably Jack Nicholson`s best role to date (although he has had several great and memorable ones). It is as if he was destined to play this character all along, and will forever be remembered as this over energetic guy trying to help and free his fellow patients from the order, discipline, and boundaries set by his nemesis, Nurse Ratched. The movie may be criticized by a few people for not portraying psychiatric patients truthfully, but that wasn`t the purpose of the story. This is a very smart tragic comedy that focuses on the struggle between a complicated free spirited man (who happens to be a criminal as well) and a very cold, over controlling, and disciplined Nurse who thinks her way is the only right way to do things. She runs the institution like a General who orders his soldiers. Her treatment doesn`t seem to be helping her patients at all, and only seems to refrain them, while McMurphy`s crazy, radical, and anarchic behavior actually improves their well being. A clear example of this is that Nurse Ratched is so blind and focused on doing things her way that she doesn`t even realize that Billy has stopped stuttering. Maybe she did notice it, but since it wasn`t accomplished by her methods she makes sure he goes back to being his usual self by blaming him for his actions. Louise Fletcher gives a terrific performance playing this cold hearted character so well; she isn`t your typical villain who knows is evil and only wants to hurt people, she actually believes that she is right and that her methods are the only ones allowed. The two characters are so different from each other that they just end up complimenting their performance. The reason we love McMurphy so much is because he represents the fight against abusive authority figures, such as Nurse Ratched.
For those who aren`t familiar with the plot I will briefly explain it. R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) has been sentenced to prison for several assaults and a rape conviction. The guards have doubts whether or not he is mad and needs mental treatment or is faking it, and therefore is sent to an institution where the doctors can analyze his behavior. Little does McMurphy know that in the ward he is placed at there is even someone more controlling than the prison guards, Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) who runs the place with absolute authority. Among the very submissive patients we have Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif), who has suicidal impulses, Harding (William Redfield) who suspects his wife cheated on him although he has no believable proof, Charlie Cheswick (Sydney Lassick), Fredrickson (Vincent Schiavelli), Taber (Christopher Lloyd), and Martini (Danny DeVito). McMurphy catches his eye however on Chief Bromden (Will Sampson) because he could be useful to him due to his big size and seems to be outside of everyone else`s radar (including Nurse Ratched) since they say he`s deaf and mute. McMurphy befriends the patients, plays cards with them, basketball, talks about the World Series, and tries to teach them a thing or two about being men (he even finds a way of taking them fishing). He defies the Nurse`s authority and makes a bet with the rest of the patients that he can put an end to her daily hospital routines and break her, but when McMurphy realizes that in the institution he doesn`t have a release date like he would have at prison he tries to find a way to escape.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo`s Nest is a classic that has enjoyed success ever since its debut in 1975 , and it continues to be beloved by movie fans around the world today (it ranks at #9 on the IMDB Top 250 Films of all time). It was actually only the second film to date to win the grand slam of Oscars: Best direction (Milos Forman), Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Louise Fletcher), Best Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman), and Best Picture (Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas). The screenplay was adapted from Ken Kesey`s novel and he wrote after his own personal experience when he volunteered to work at a Veteran Hospital in California. The screenplay took a different approach (so much so that Kesey sewed the film and has refused to watch the final cut,) in the novel the Chief narrates the story. The film will be remembered for its very memorable characters, and there are several great scenes in the movie (when McMurphy narrates the imaginary World Series game to the guys, when he takes them fishing, his confrontations with Nurse Ratched), but it will also be esteemed for the very climatic and powerful ending. This is truly a great film and has stood the test of time. This is a must see movie.