R. P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) gets himself transferred from a labour camp belonging to the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton to a psychiatric hospital when authorities want him to undergo an evaluation to prove he isn’t crazy and is fully capable of carrying out the work they give him. McMurphy is more than happy to go along with this as his time spent at the institution will see him through the remainder of his sentence. He is put on a ward with men of varying degrees of sanity and mental well-being, all of whom are used as accessories to get what he wants or simply for his own amusement. Another of his goals is to do whatever it takes to irritate the ward’s head nurse, Miss Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher), who apparently gets her kicks breaking the spirit of all the men in her care. Through all his battles with Nurse Ratched, McMurphy helps the men to get voices of their own, and for some, their eventual return to the outside world.
In 1975, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest came to our screens and went on to become one of the classics. It was the first film in. 40 years to win the Big Five at the Academy Awards, and after watching it, it’s not hard to see why. The film contains a plethora of first-rate performances that are all a joy to watch as they are all so different, yet compliment each other beautifully.
Jack Nicholson was his usual brilliant self as McMurphy set about helping the lunatics take over the asylum. I can’t quite figure out whether he was a bad guy or not. But there was something lovely about the way he taught all of the men under Nurse Ratched’s protection to be themselves and to not be afraid to have their own voice. Nicholson also made me laugh with that streak of boyish mischief he always seems to possess. He was once again terrific to watch and put on a performance well-deserving of his Best Actor win.
Louise Fletcher was just as good as the dreaded Mildred Ratched. You couldn’t help but think the woman was a total cow bag every time she tried to rain on the men’s parade, and it was even harder still not to take great pleasure whenever McMurphy managed to put an end to her plans. Between hers and Nicholson’s characters there was a constant power struggle, and you could never really be sure in whose favour the balance was going to tip. Fletcher was a fine match for Nicholson, and the battle of wills that took place between the two was perplexing.
There was a real tale of friendship running throughout the course of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. All the men in the institution suck together until the bitter end, but the bond between McMurphy and the Chief struck me particularly hard. The bond they had was fairly heartwarming and the twist of events at the end were evidence of just how moving film can be when it is done as well at it was here.
Overall, if you haven’t yet seen One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest may I suggest that you delay your viewing of the film no longer. It is a film that has stood the test of time, and I’m pretty sure it will continue to do so for plenty of time still to come thanks to the powerhouse performances and wonderful storytelling which have earned it legendary status over the past 41 years.