Dir; Milos Forman. Starring; Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Danny DeVito. Color. R. 133 min.
Due to his chosen retirement, many younger viewers will never know how amazing of an actor Jack Nicholson was. His performance as R.P. McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is the highlight of his career. Released towards the end of the counter-culture movement, this is an important performance, and an important film.
Based on the famous Ken Kesey novel, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a harsh story about the mental health industry. McMurphy is a career criminal. He never committed serious crimes, but he does break the law repeatedly. The most recent crime was sleeping with a 15 year old girl. McMurphy says, “once she shoves that beaver in your face, its tough to say no”. This is not a good man, but also not evil. Instead of rotting away in prison, McMurphy has chosen to plead insanity and is placed into a mental health institution.
McMurphy believes entering a mental health facility is going to be a cake walk towards freedom. What he does not realize is, unlike prison, there is no timetable for his release. It is up to the doctors to determine if and when it is “safe” for him to return to society. His biggest adversary at the clinic is the devilish Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher, delivering an Oscar winning performance). She is a woman that thinks strictly controlling these nut jobs instead of letting them be themselves is in their best interest.
Like any smart prisoner, McMurphy quickly figures out his cage, and how to exploit it. He takes over the counseling sessions Nurse Ratched holds weekly. Basketball games are regularly played in which the guards take great joy in beating these group of fools every time. McMurphy leads them to victory. During a routine outing, McMurphy steals the bus and takes the patients on a fishing trip, giving them a moment of happiness they have not had in a long time.
The key scene comes when McMurphy insists on watching the World Series. Nurse Ratched leaves it up to a vote of the patients as to whether or not they want to watch it. Desperately begging his peers, McMurphy finally gets enough votes to see the game. But, Nurse Ratched denies him because the meeting was adjourned moments before. Furious, McMurphy sits in front of the television. Then, out of nowhere, he becomes a commentator for the game as if he was there. The patients slowly gather around, becoming increasingly excited with every ball/strike call McMurphy makes. They are transformed into a rowdy group of fans just like any of us at a sporting event, despite the fact they aren’t even watching the game. It is the ultimate screw you to Nurse Ratched, which of course infuriates her.
Directed by the late Milos Forman, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a classic tale of humanity. A group of beaten down and lost men are inspired to enjoy life again, even it is just for a brief time. Jack Nicholson delivers one of the all time great performances in film history. As relevant today as it was in 1975, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a movie that everyone can relate to, which is the true sign of a masterpiece.
Suck Factor: 0 out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS)
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!