Director: Milos Forman
Writers: Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman (Screenplay), Ken Kessey (Novel)
Staring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher
One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is one my all time favourite films and most likely on everyone’s lists. There’s no surprise either as it won all five top Academy Awards, best picture, actor (Jack Nicholson), actress (Louise Fletcher), director (Milos Forman) and screenplay (Lawrence Huaben and Bo Goldman). That pretty much sums up what you can expect from this film, faultless from acting to directing, crew and cast all being outstanding. There’s something about One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest that leaves you speechless and with a lump in your throat, I don’t know if it’s the sad end to McMurphy, his failed attempt to defeat Nurse Ratched or if its relief as he chose his own fate.
Based on Ken Kessey’s 1962 award-winning and best-selling novel it surrounds the topic of mental illness and is set in a psychiatric ward. Although those in Oregon State Hospital may stutter, may be paralyzed, paranoid, scared, shy and fearful they will understand and admire McMurphy and by that not get better by pills or therapy but by liberation. After skipping jail McMurphy (Nicholson) is sent for “evaluation” and although not insane, a study by psychologist Rosenham suggests its only a matter of time. Grasping onto his sanity and his somewhat freedom the McMurphy finds conflict with the ward’s nurse Mildred Ratched (Louisde Fletcher), hard and cold she lays down her laws but its only nature for McMurphy to rebel. Realising the unfair treatment, the lack of privileges, fun and living the fellow patients get McMurphy gets a group together to rebel against Nurse Ratched.
The relationships formed and the characters met along the way are brilliantly presented and displayed. The way mental illness is portrayed is simplistic and that’s not a flaw nor a criticism in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest but a credential. In McMurphy’s helpless “army” is Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif) a nervous wreck of a young man with a terrible stutter, Charlie Cheswick (Sydney Lassick), a man that displays childish tantrums, Martini (Danny DeVito) who’s delusional; Dale Harding (William Redfield), although well-educated and strung he suffers from paranoia and finally the most interesting “Chief” (Will Sampson) a silent American Indian who’s believed deaf and mute. They each have their own story, their own pasts and problems and in befriending McMurphy they have a taste of civilisation.
There are two views of this film, some would say it’s representation of those mentally ill is outrageous, false and unjust but many will say that One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is superbly manipulative. It’s scenes of rebellion, McMurphy’s hell raising middle finger to Nurse Ratched are the most popular, the fishing trip and the all night orgy however you can not escape the unease and confused looks on the patients faces. The film is truly made by its two leading stars, both Nicholson’s and Fletcher’s adaptation of their characters. Polar opposites it’s a film about a battle between righteousness and living. I will not say anymore about the plot, characters or scenes, I will just say that this is the only film that left me paralyzed in emotion as the credits rolled down.
There’s no faults in this film, it’s an accurate adaptation of a novel, a hugely successful film and has earned its place as an all tome favourite and great. Films aren’t like One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest anymore, we seem to lack simplicity and humour. As the characters show not everything is what it seems and this film isn’t just another drama about mental illness, its a story of change and realisation.