One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Director: Milos Forman
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Brad Dourif, Will Sampson
Synopsis: Randall Patrick “R.P.” McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), is a career criminal and in an attempt to avoid more prison time pleads insanity and is sent to a mental institution where he believes everything will be easier for him. Upon his arrival he meets Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), who is the head nurse and dictator of his ward. McMurphy and Ratched clash almost immediately when he will not adhere to her orders and he proves to be to much of a free spirit. He often encourages the other patients to think outside the box and that maybe they aren’t that crazy after all. He starts to take a liking to Chief Bromden (Will Sampson), a giant Native American who has been rendered mute, but it doesn’t take long for McMurphy to get him and the others out of their shells and enjoying life. His upbeat attitude is no match for Nurse Ratched’s icy demeanor with her shutting him down at every corner and eventually leading to him and others to receive shock therapy. The battle of wills comes to a crashing halt when Ratched bullies a younger patient with tragic results McMurphy loses it almost killing Ratched which forever alters his stay at the institution.
Trivia: Most of Jack Nicholson’s scene with Dean R. Brooks upon arriving at the hospital was improvised – including his slamming a stapler, asking about a fishing photo, and discussing his rape conviction; Brooks’s reactions were authentic. Director Milos Forman relied heavily on reaction shots to pull more characters into scenes. In some group therapy scenes, there were ten minutes of Jack Nicholson’s reactions filmed even if he had very little dialogue. The shot of Louise Fletcher looking icily at Nicholson after he returns from shock therapy was actually her irritated reaction to a piece of direction from Forman.
Why I think you should see this: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the quintessential Jack Nicholson film there is no comparison as to his best performance because it has always been R.P. McMurphy. Milos Forman won his first Best Director Oscar with what I believe to be his best film it is also not too much different than his other Oscar win for Amadeus about a brash young rebel who is basically killed by those who think they know better. That said Louise Fletcher is amazing as Nurse Ratched and Brad Dourif does a great job in his feature film debut. Look for very young Christopher Lloyd and Danny DeVito. This is a masterpiece and if you haven’t got around to seeing it check this one out you won’t be disappointed.