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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
IMDB rating:
Milos Forman
Peter Brocco as Col. Matterson
Dean R. Brooks as Dr. Spivey
Alonzo Brown as Miller
Mwako Cumbuka as Warren
Danny DeVito as Martini
William Duell as Jim Sefelt
Josip Elic as Bancini
Lan Fendors as Nurse Itsu
Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched
Nathan George as Washington
Ken Kenny as Beans Garfield
Mel Lambert as Harbor Master
Storyline: McMurphy has a criminal past and has once again gotten himself into trouble and is sentenced by the court. To escape labor duties in prison, McMurphy pleads insanity and is sent to a ward for the mentally unstable. Once here, McMurphy both endures and stands witness to the abuse and degradation of the oppressive Nurse Ratched, who gains superiority and power through the flaws of the other inmates. McMurphy and the other inmates band together to make a rebellious stance against the atrocious Nurse.
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A true classic, packed with great performances
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is one hell of a movie. Not only does it deliver fully in terms of comedy and drama, but it also managed to win the five big categories at the Oscars back in 1976. Jack Nicholson gives the maybe finest performance from his career and that says a lot. Louise Fletcher's Nurse Ratched regularly makes all-time villain lists and this film is considered one of the greatest examples of how the movie is better than the book it is based on, namely Ken Kesey's novel. So congrats to the writing team Goldman/Hauben, of which the latter never wrote another screenplay than this one here. And to director Milos Forman who, now in his early 80s, gave us many more great films during his 50-year-long career.

If you take a closer look, you will see that this movie starts the way it ends. With a camera shot outside the institution. At the beginning a car approaches, possibly the one bringing McMurphy and at the end we see Chief leaving to freedom. Everything in-between (except the boat trip) takes place behind the walls/fences of the institution. We get to see several sessions with sadist Ratched in control, which usually end up way worse for all the inmates than they started. As I mentioned earlier, there's moments when you can never be sure which direction this film is gonna take in the end, comedy or drama. That is also why the final developments are so shocking for everybody. Is it an uplifting ending? Or a depressing? I'm not sure. You have to decide for yourself. The boat trip was certainly the highlight in terms of lightness. Everybody had such a great time with the evil nurse not present. I liked how McMurphy acted as if catching the fish was something so big, such a huge event to boost the inmates' confidence.

Apart from that, it is also interesting to see how the employees of the institution act. Some are sadist and like to humiliate as well, some almost treat them equally at times, like during that big party scene. Obviously, the scene when Billy is caught with the woman by Nurse Ratched is very significant too. You could argue how Ratched's own sexual frustration may play a role in the way she ruthlessly reacted and pushed her unstable patient into suicide. She is maybe an even more interesting character than McMurphy. But is she lead or supporting? I'm not sure about that with McMurphy being so much in the center of the movie. But maybe that is just due to Nicholson's great screen presence. Anyway, it's fascinating to see how Ratched hides her mean behavior behind alleged seriousness: She allows the poll, but still decides the outcome. She tells that the more insane members count as much as everybody else as they are part of the institution as well etc.

And there is a water application (not sure of the exact name) that plays a major part in this movie too, as this is basically the means to freedom, at first only seemingly with McMurphy, but in the end actually with the Chief, also a very interesting character. however, the early significance of this application is also shown as his little demonstration about how McMurphy at least tried makes everybody brave enough to vote for seeing the baseball game in the face of Ratched's evil eye.

Finally you could argue: Did Chief do the right thing in the end? Or, what if McMurphy had been the doctor and Ratched was one of the patients (as it should be?). Would it be better for all the other inmates as they seem to get along with him well. Is it even possible with McMurphy's anti-authority lifestyle and approach. Anyway, if you see that this film was made in the 1970s you could certainly applaud it for its liberal attitude towards sex, nudity, alcohol, authorities and possibly even euthanasia towards the end. Be warned that this movie has two very intense scenes: first the medical procedure taken on McMurphy after the first brawl and finally the pillow scene. Stay away if you maybe can't handle these. Or better look away as it would be a pity if you missed this brilliant film because of that. However, completely in contrast to that: If you have perceived asylums as something creepy (just like many others) so far, you may change your opinion after seeing this film. The inmates all seem fairly harmless compared to the one person in control of them.
The Ultimate Backfire
It took a dozen years for One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest to make it to the big screen from Broadway. In 1962 Kirk Douglas made his one and only return to Broadway to star as Randall P. McMurphy on stage with Joan Tetzel as his nemesis, nurse Ratched. Douglas bought the screen rights, but by the time anyone was interested in doing the film version, Kirk was too old for the part.

That may have been a break for the movie fans because as much as I like Kirk Douglas, I can't see anyone but Jack Nicholson doing this role as the free spirited McMurphy. McMurphy's a low level career criminal type who statutorily raped a girl as he put it '15 going on 35'. He decides to fake a crazy act while in prison to get out of the work farm he's assigned to.

So Nicholson's goes to the mental hospital where he meets an odd assortment of people whom he discovers voluntarily checked themselves in there, mainly because it's easier to stay there and not take all your psychological baggage into society. That's a crucial difference that Nicholson finds out the hard way, his new friends most of them can pack up and leave anytime they want. He's sent there by the state and the state determines when he's ready to go even if it's past the allotted jail time he was sentenced to.

The state in this case is Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, one of the great Dickensian names ever given a movie character. Louise is the ultimate control freak and these people who've shut themselves away from life are her ultimate tools. When Nicholson comes in, he hasn't given up on life like the rest of these poor souls, he becomes a threat to Fletcher's little empire.

It's hard to believe that such a smart guy like McMurphy would not have known the rules about commitment. Still it doesn't detract a bit from the overall quality of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

Though the topic is not a fixed one to any era, the script does leave many oblique references to the Sixties in the film. The electroshock treatment and the lobotomy operations depicted here were by 1975 no longer in use. They were pretty barbaric and the mental health profession discarded these, but not before too many lives were shattered with them.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest swept the main Oscar categories, it won for Best Picture, Best Director for Milos Forman, Best Actor for Jack Nicholson, Best Actress for Louise Fletcher and Best Adapted Screenplay to Lawrence Hauban and Bo Goldman. Brad Dourif was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, but he lost to George Burns in The Sunshine Boys.

Louise Fletcher never got the career mileage she should have for playing Nurse Ratched. It took her years, but she did get another career role in television as the ruler of Bejor, Kai Winn on Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is one timeless classic, it will be popular a millenia from now.
A wonderful film
Before I discuss this exceptional film, I need to point out that there is a lot of truth to this film if you are looking for what it was like in psychiatric hospitals in the 1950s and into the 60s. The hellish practices and dehumanization was definitely true of many facilities during this era. However, today, many of the horrific abuses are no longer relevant. So, while some will point to this film as proof that psychiatry in general is evil personified (such as the Scientologists), for the most part, this isn't the case today. Shock treatment is rarely done today and when it is, it's nothing like it is portrayed in the film and it actually has therapeutic value when all else fails. Lobotomies are also thankfully a thing of the past. So, while debating the pros and cons of hospitalization and medications is reasonable today, don't assume the film is in any way like psychiatric institutions today--many of which have been closed or severely reduced in size as well as the length of stay of the average patient.

The film begins with a cocky sociopathic criminal, McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), being sent to a psychiatric hospital from prison. It seems McMurphy thinks that by "playing crazy" he'll have an easier time and shorter stay in a hospital instead of prison. However, over time, he comes to see that a mental hospital is a pretty sick place--particularly when it comes to the crazy staff who run the place. McMurphy responds to this system by constantly fighting it and trying to subvert their needless rules and control. Some of this is very funny (such as the fishing trip) and you can understand why he would fight the oppressive ways of the hospital. In the end, however, the system ultimately crushes him like so many others. The conclusion is certainly something you won't forget!

Although Jack Nicholson was great in the film as were the rest of the ensemble cast, the star in the film was Louise Fletcher. She played the coldest and most awful nurse in the history of film. Her tough performance truly made the film. Otherwise, if she hadn't been so utterly devoid of humanity, the film just wouldn't have worked. Oddly, the film's producers had a hard time accepting her for the job--and she was the last one cast in the film.

Exceptional in every way--the writing, acting and direction. The only reservation I have regards the misuse of the film by anti-psychiatry groups. However, I am glad the film was made as the abuses of the industry need to be understood and not forgotten.
A Powerful Protest, and a Tragedy of the Failed System
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was a social protest film that attacked the social stereotypes and tragic failures of the mental health system. The film pulls no punches and is often hard to watch, but is so powerful in it's message that it remains a classic film of the 1970's. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a complex film, about complex people misidentified as simple. Much like other modern protest films One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest applies to one societal problem, but can transcend its subject matter and represent more modern problems, making it truly timeless.

Many films have approached the community aspect of human life, some attacking it some defending it, this film seems to do both at the same time. The film contains a major paradox, both criticizing those who shun people from society for their differences, while showing that community is part of the human way of life, and that even society's rejects need community. Most of the shots throughout the film are medium or close ups, which most likely represents what a close group the patients are. It's both tragic, brilliant, and heartwarming to see how a group of neglected and forgotten people can band together, when society turns its back on them.

The most impressive aspect of the film is the treatment of the characters, which is most likely a representation of the time it came out. Many of the characters in this film are connected by the fact that they have mental health issues, and they are rejects, but the characters are all distinctly different characters, and not just stereotypes. The treatment of the characters is impressive in it's own right, because today critics would probably say that the film is insensitive, it's humor is occasionally a little crude, but it's the exact opposite, the characters are treated as normal human beings, which is the most equal way to treat any character in any film.

The movie contains a very angry message pointed at the methods of treatment for the mentally ill, and is an extremely powerful, albeit a little hard to watch, because of it. Simply put as the film progresses we see all of these characters, go through the horrific treatment they were subjected to, all the while following one main character, Randle. By the end of the film the main character is a vehicle for the message being sent, as the story takes Randall, a broken man, and breaks him permanently. By the end the audience should realize that they have watched a film, exemplifying the tragedy of the failing system.

In conclusion One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is a powerful, social protest film that uses great characters to send it's message. Beautifully acted, tragic, and infinitely complex, its message transcends its subject matter and represent a tragedy of the system's ineptitude. It's also one of the few movies that can tackle such a tough subject with care, respect, and finesse, it's just in general a great film.
Big disappointment...
I rented this movie because I've heard people say it was good, it's high on the top 250 here and stuff. But I just don't get what is so great about it. Sure, the acting is fabulous, especially Jack Nicholson, but you need more than that to make a great movie. Nothing really happens, there are flaws in the story, and are you supposed to think that head nurse is evil? I never thought so, she was just doing her job or what? Darth Vader, there's your baddie, or Emperor Palpatine these guys are mean.

I gotta admit I laughed a few times, and this is not a bad movie. But masterpiece? Star Wars and Jaws are two 70's movies that are better than this one. I give it a 6/10.
Not what I thought it would be.
(I will end up putting in spoilers.)What do I have to say about One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? It was not what I thought it would be. I mean to say that negatively. Did all the other nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay absolutely one hundred percent down right suck? If not then why did One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest win them? I was disappointed. It just did not do a whole lot for me. Maybe I would have to watch it again to determine if One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest should be deserving of Best Actor and Best Actress. When it comes to movies where someone is imprisoned this was not one of the better ones. Although I have said some negative stuff I did not completely dislike One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest. All the heat between Nurse Ratched and Randall was alright if not good. Seems like it is some of the typicall stuff between authority and inmate. The party with the hookers was weird. Shows how sneaky or cunning inmates are. Or maybe the staff is not all that great? Then there is Chief. Way to take advantage of a seemingly clueless guy. Not the first time that has happened(in movies/real life) right? And for those of you who have absolutely forgotten or have not seen this movie I will not spoil it completely but what the chief does in the end I did not see coming. For any of you who have probably assumed by now: No I have not read the book. So this has got to be one of many cases where the book is better than the movie.
Not as good as the book
I am an avid reader, and adhere to the belief that books paint a much more beautiful portrait than a movie ever can. And so when I finished reading One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, I rented the movie, because I heard that it is one of the greatest films ever made. The characters are well cast and Nicholson's performance is haunting, but I was too distracted by all the deviations from Ken Kesey's novel to enjoy it fully. I recommend this film, but would strongly suggest that anyone touched by it should read the book afterward. In this way a deep meaning can be imbibed from the film, and by reading the book, the meaning will be reaffirmed and solidified on a more grandiose scale.
The spirit of freedom vs. the spirit of legal-ism
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) is a film you'll appreciate more as you mature. I saw it a few times when I was younger and, while I thought it was good, I didn't 'get' a lot of the insights the film conveys. Viewing it again recently, I 'got' it.

Set in the early 60s, the story involves R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) and his arrival at a mental institution in Salem, Oregon (where the film was shot). He plays the "mental illness" card to get out of prison time, thinking it'll be a piece of cake, but he's wrong, very wrong. Everything appears well at the hospital and Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) seems to be a benevolent overseer of McMurphy's ward, but there are sinister things going on beneath the surface.

The movie criticizes the way institutions deal with mental illnesses. Their "therapy" is futile and only makes the patients dependent on the institution itself, thereby creating its need for existence (at the taxpayer's expense). McMurphy is a threat to the establishment and therefore must be "dealt with."

A lot of people criticize the film by suggesting that Nurse Ratched "isn't that bad" or that "she was only trying to do her job", etc. I had the same reaction the first couple of times I saw it. This reveals an aspect of the film's brilliance: Ratched's malevolence is so subtle that the filmmakers allow the possibility for complete misinterpretation. Yes, from an administrative point of view, she seemingly does a good job, she's authoritarian without being sadistic, and she cares for the residents as long as they follow the rules (more on this below). Yet she is absolutely demonic as a robotized arm of a dehumanizing system. She maintains the residents in a state of oblivion and marginalization; they are deprived of their dignity because the system sees them as subhuman.

The filmmakers and Fletcher make Nurse Ratched a more effective antagonist by showing restraint. Compare this to, say, Faye Dunaway's portrayal of Joan Crawford in "Mommie Dearest," which pretty much turned her into a cartoon villain. Ratched isn't such an obvious sadist, yet she uses the rules to tyrannize the men and reduce them to an almost infantile state of dependency and subservience. Her crowning achievement is Billy Bibbit (Brad Dourif).

McMurphy, despite his obvious flaws, is the protagonist of the story. Although he's impulsive and has a weakness for the female gender, which got him into prison in the first place, he has a spirit of freedom and life. His problem is that he needs to learn a bit of wisdom; then he can walk in his freedom without causing unnecessary harm to himself and others.

Nurse Ratched, on the other hand, represents legal-ism, which is an authoritarian spirit obsessed with laws or rules. This is clearly seen in the World Series sequence: Even though McMurphy gets the final vote he needs for his ward to watch the Series Ratched refuses to allow it on a technicality. When McMurphy then PRETENDS to watch the game and works the guys up into a state of euphoria, Ratched reacts with sourpuss disapproval. That's because legalism is the opposite of the spirit of freedom, life and joy. Legalism is all about putting on appearances and enforcing the LETTER of the law (or rule). The problem with this is that "appearances" are not about reality and, worse, "the letter kills."

Despite his folly and mistakes, McMurphy does more good for the guys in his ward than Ratched and the institution could do in a decade. How so? Not only because he has a spirit of freedom and life, but because he loves deeply, but only those who deserve it – the humble – not arrogant abusers. When you cast restraint to the wind and love with all your heart you'll reap love in return, as long as the person is worthy. A certain person hugs McMurphy at the end because he loves him. McMurphy set him free from the shackles of mental illness and, worse, the institution that refuses to actually heal because it needs mentally ill people to exist; it only goes through the motions of caring and healing (not that there aren't any good people in such institutions, of course).

No review of this film is complete without mentioning the notable character of Chief, played effectively by Will Sampson.

The film runs 2 hour and 13 minutes.

A good movie, but a little flawed
This movie is directed by one of my favorite directors, Milos Forman. When I saw it, I expected it to be a great film. Indeed, throughout most of the film, there was a strong theme being presented, and the film was well-made. At the end however, I expected there to be a great conclusion or a big pay-off. But really, it kind of turned out to be an "Of Mice and Men" kind of story where two guys dream of going far away and living good lives. This did not really fit in with the movie. However, another part of the conclusion was good where the main idea of the movie was strongly portrayed. I won't say what it is because I don't want to give any thing away, but it involves someone other than the main character dying. So, I would say that the movie is good, but not great. It does not measure up to Milos Forman's other films like Amadeus, Man on the Moon, and Hair.
You would have to be crazy not to watch this movie.
The more I see older Jack Nicholson films, the more I understand why people think he is such a great actor. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is definitely one of those movies that would not be made the same if made today, and as far as I can tell, it is actually pretty accurate for the way mental hospitals worked at the time. The story of a sane man playing crazy and then trying to make the other patients sane while making the nurses crazy, it just has to be seen to be believed. The story is interesting and kinda heartbreaking in the end, (note to self, never fall asleep during an escape attempt, bad things will happen) and it has a great young cast that has gone on to do some great things with Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd and Brad Dourif all turning in terrific performances. And yeah, Nurse Ratched is just plain evil. Now excuse me while I rip a sink out of the ground and throw it through a window, I have places to go. 5 Beards Out Of 5 Check out my video review
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