One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
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The film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is adapted from a novel of the same name written by Ken Kesey. The movie carries with it symbolism through color, sounds, and images and the casting could not have been more proper. Jack Nicholson is cast in the lead role as Randle Patrick McMurphy, a ne'er-do-well who goes into a mental institution to finish off his jail sentence. He figures it will be more slack than the work farm. His nemesis is Nurse Ratched, cast and played extraordinarily by Louise Fletcher. The movie does well in incorporating feelings and colors that surround the viewer with the mental institution's atmosphere. And the sounds and images put forth by director Milos Forman add to that ambiance. One of the film's biggest successes lies in the cinematography (or lack thereof). Virtually all the scenes, even when the inmates go outside, are bleak and dreary. The lighting in the institution is the fluorescent, white-out type of lighting. Every slippery hospital surface is revealed and the viewer can almost smell the hospital cleaning fluids emanating from the screen. The hospital has no bright happy colors, either. It is filmed in the dim blues and greys of the ward that resemble the patients' despair. The patients are dressed in dim grey as well and the nurse, as always, wears stark white. The nurse's appearance also holds symbolism in it. Her uniform is always perfectly pressed. And her hat is always on straight. She represents order and authority, and her uniform is one symbolic affect of that order. It totally contrasts the patient's mien - always disheveled, wearing demeaning hospital robes.Read more ›
I rank this movie as the best of the best of what I consider to be American Cinema's golden decade, the 70s. It certainly won the widest acclaim, with its sweep of the major Oscars for 1975 (Nicholson also won best actor from the New York Film Critics voters that year).
Not to be overlooked is the fantastic job performed by the film's adaptors, Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben, who also won Oscars for their screenplay. True, they did have a fairly decent stage version (by Dale Wasserman) to work with. I remember seeing an excellent production of the play, with a terrific cast, in San Francisco circa 1972. Just as an aside, I read in the Norton Critical edition of the novel, a review of a NY production of the play by Walter Kerr that was an absolute pan. Suffice it to say that the movie is much different than either the novel or the play. Those familiar with Kesey's great novel understand how difficult a transfer from page to screen would be; about a third of the story is Bromden's delusional interior monologue. The final script, quite rightly, focuses almost exclusively on Randal P McMurphy's struggle with Nurse Ratched for the hearts and minds of the inmates.Read more ›
I wonder whether Nicholson has even yet had full recognition for the truly great actor he is (how many people have even seen The King of Marvin Gardens, for instance?) His screen presence is enormous, magnetic and menacing. He combines outsize testosteronic individuality with the ability to get inside a character, and an electric sense of threat with a real power to tug at the heart-strings. Bad he may be, but unsympathetic never. He is a very big little guy, but he is still the little guy against the system. It must be impossible, surely, to upstage that?
Incredibly, no. The ultimate star in a film that has no shortage of up-and-coming luminaries as well as Nicholson (D de Vito for one) is Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched. I am never going to forget that mask-like expressionless face and that ever-rational, implacable, ever-modulated voice mouthing those soulless, uncomprehending, the-system-is-right banalities. Above all, I am never going to forget that hair. Among the many touches of genius in this production, that hairstyle is the ultimate. I simply could not take my eyes off it. The name is effective too, and I shall continue to believe until someone proves me wrong that it was an inspired borrowing from Jane Eyre -- the dreadful and sadistic Miss Skatcherd brought up to date and given a 20th-century twist.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's Nicholson's masterpiece! I watched this for the first time way back in 2007. Glad to watch it again.Published 8 days ago by Scotty2Hotty
We watched it again with my son for his school assignment! Never gets old! Awesome flick!Published 9 days ago by Trish TS