One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

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This is one of those all time classic films that I had never seen before.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was widely considered one of Jack Nicholson’s greatest performances, directed by Milos Forman.  The film won five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress (Louise Fletcher).

There were a few things that surprised me about Cuckoo’s Nest.  One was how many familiar faces there was in this film.  I saw Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Scatman Cruthers, Sydney Lassick, Vincent Schiavelli and Brad Dourif.  According to IMDB, Anjelica Huston was also in the film, although the role was uncredited.  I had no idea the level of interesting actors that appeared here.

That list of actors does not even include Will Sampson as The Chief, who was probably the most compelling character to me. I loved the not-so-mute Indian and the relationship between him and R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) was one of respect and friendship.  I really liked how McMurphy tried to help the Chief out even before he knew the large man’s secret.

The other surprising thing about Cuckoo’s Nest to me was how funny the film was.  Sure it was dark as could be, but there is no denying that the tone of the film had its share of humor to it.  The setting did not seem to be conducive for humor, but this talent cast took the dark comedic material and made it work well.

Of course, the ending took an even darker turn, and yet I found myself strangely inspired by the actions of the Chief.

The performance of one of the iconic antagonists of all time, Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, was wonderful.  The cruelty of the woman was truly sad as she treated these poor men in such a rotten manner.  She was the perfect foil for McMurphy as they were opposites to each other.

Watching the movie today, much of what they show taking place in the asylum is outdated.  The shock therapy and the lobotomy are not used any more (I think…at least I hope), but the character and their motivations are still right on track.

I am certainly glad I took the time to see this great film.


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