Oscars Challenge #49: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) Movie Review
There have been many films that were nominated for the Academy Awards that tackle mental health issues. Some even have one Best Picture award, like Ordinary People (1980) or The Lost Weekend (1945). If you are an aspiring or amateur filmmaker and want to tackle this delicate issue, you must research well and study because if you get it wrong, you might hurt others' feelings.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one film that ultimately captivates you with its brilliant storytelling and acting. A movie that shows not only the comedic side of things but also the heartbreaking ones.
One of three Best Picture Winners to have won the big five categories joining, It Happened One Night (1934) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
We follow the story of Randle "R.P." McMurphy, a convict accused of statutory rape. To lessen his prison sentence and hard labor, he pretended to be mentally insane to be transferred to a mental institution. The ward is watched over by the strict and oppressive head nurse named Mildred Ratched. She uses her oppressiveness to intimidate other patients.
Other than McMurphy, there are other patients in the facility. a stuttering Billy Bibbit, a tall deaf-mute Native American Chief Bromden, a temper-prone Charlie Cheswick, and many others with chronic conditions. To pass the time, the patients play card games, watch T.V. and do recreational stuff like shooting basketball. However, McMurphy wants to do something different for the guys because he feels the place is very confined. Nurse Ratched views McMurphy's rebellious attitude as a threat to the well-being of others and starts dominating by limiting their recreational time and confiscating cigarettes. McMurphy has to think of ways to outwit the head nurse and show the other patients that even though they have been deprived of their freedom and sickness, they can still enjoy their life. Of course, their actions don't dwell on Nurse Ratched's standards, who likes her patients to follow the rules even if they are deprived of their freedom.
Milos Forman, the same director as Amadeus (1984), directs this film. Starring the legendary Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy, Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, and a couple of others, including Will Sampson, Christopher Lloyd, and Danny DeVito.
Like the Godfather, Schindler's List, or Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, this is a film that is genuinely high caliber in terms of story, editing, casting, and music. It stands as one of the best films on this Best Picture list.
I was shooting in the dark before I watched this film. I mean, I didn't know what to expect of the story or if it went beyond my expectations. One thing I know is that after watching this mammoth classic, it just leaves me in awe. The film might not be perfect, but this is one of those that you forgive its imperfections. The good things that you can get from this outweigh the flaws.
Beautiful performances from Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher. Both of them deserved to win the top acting awards. What stood out to me was the character development of Nicholson's character. He starts like a typical crook that just wants to have fun but as soon as he starts to develop a personal connection with the patients, he soon starts to change. Nurse Ratched, as a character, is absolutely terrifying. She is like Count Olaf in the Series of Unfortunate Events Book Series.
The setting of the film is pretty simple. The mental health facility is situated in a small provincial town. Most of the film is shot in a confined room with the characters, and it is not until the latter part of the movie that you realize that the hospital is quite large. I like it that way because even in that confined location, many things are happening. The movie was filmed in an actual mental health hospital; surprisingly, some of the characters were actual patients from the institution.
You may have seen Jack Nicholson in his other roles as the evil guy in The Shining or the corrupt mob boss in The Departed, but his part here is absolutely stunning. It is one of a kind, and I like it.
If you are looking for a film that may not be a feel-good drama but packs a lot of lessons and themes with a unique storytelling style, this one is for you. I won't recommend it to those who don't want to watch a film with a sad ending. I assure you, there's not a minute in the movie that feels dragged or boring.
An easy and perfect 5 out of 5 stars for this classic.