I do not think mental asylums are as fun as some films make them out to be. Indeed, places filled with people who suffer from serious psychological illnesses cannot be cheerful places. Places in which patients’ lives are strictly controlled by a host of doctors and nurses hired to try and make their lives as bearable, or unbearable, as possible. Such are the thoughts I used to have about mental asylums, until I first saw R.P. McMurphy grace the silver screen in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. His is a character who, amidst an atmosphere of repression and conformity, is full of life with the relentless desire to entertain all those around him. Undoubtedly, McMurphy’s admittance to this unique mental institution takes viewers on an adventure that is quite memorable.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is directed by Milos Forman and stars Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Will Sampson, and Christopher Lloyd. The film is based on the book of the same name by author Ken Kesey. It tells the story of a rebellious man who enters a mental institution and looks to overcome the tyranny and oppression of the head nurse, much to the amazement of his fellow patients. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a drama motion picture that runs for two hours and thirteen minutes.
Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy
A chief reason why this movie is heralded as one of the most magnificent pieces of cinema is the outstanding acting on display. The entire cast is superb in their ability to totally immerse themselves in their characters’ lives in that mental hospital. However, two actors rise above the rest and deliver truly unforgettable performances: Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher.
Playing the title role of the defiant R.P. McMurphy, Jack Nicholson gives off a performance that is nothing short of fascinating. McMurphy is admitted into the mental asylum and soon notices how everyone around him conforms to the doctors and nurses, showing no resistance whatsoever. He decides to rise above this air of conformity and challenges the head nurse head-on. What I enjoy most from Nicholson’s work in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the sheer intensity and joy coming out of him. He offers the film with an enormous amount of energy that invades the entirety of this motion picture. It is, in my opinion, one of Jack Nicholson’s greatest performances in his ecclectic career, and there were many from this fine actor. Here, Nicholson is at the height of his acting brilliance, providing us with a performance that no viewer will ever forget. A fantastic actor.
Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched
As the stern and authoritarian Nurse Ratched, Louise Fletcher excellently portrays one of cinema’s most iconic evil characters. Ratched is the head nurse of the mental institution, a place she has run like clockwork, without hitches or problems. That is, until McMurphy arrives. Seeing him as a trouble-maker, Nurse Ratched begins a calm and calculated plan to dismantle this insubordinate individual. There is really much to love about Fletcher’s performance in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Her manner of speaking along with her piercing eyes combine to create a formidable authority figure who commands the mental institution with an iron first. It is surely one of the most delightful performances I have ever seen, and Fletcher’s career-best, in my opinion.
However, it is not just the acting that makes One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest an amazing motion picture. Director Milos Forman manages to give the film a realistic feel whilst still retaining a fun and lighthearted atmosphere through the movie. Along with cinematographer Haskell Wexler, Forman creates a lot of striking visuals that would seem difficult given the fact most of the film’s scenes are within the confined spaces of the mental hospital. The director also does a superlative job in allowing the cast the space needed to deliver impressive performances that linger long in the viewer’s memory. His distinctive style is unlike any other director and is beautifully displayed in this film. Along with the excellent Amadeus (1984), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is Milos Forman’s other masterpiece that easily ranks amongst the very best of films. And, deservedly so.
When it comes to book-to-film adaptations, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is certainly one of the best ever made. It has an incredible cast, a talented director and a story that resonates with everyone. This is the sort of universal films that all viewers will be able to find something, or someone, they connect with. Jack Nicholson is a key reason why this motion picture is still a much-beloved classic almost thirty years since it first premiered. Add to that Fletcher’s exquisite performance as Nurse Ratched and Milos Forman’s assured direction and what you have is an incredible film that is one of Hollywood’s greatest exports. A film for the ages.
- Jack Nicholson (as R.P. McMurphy)
- Louise Fletcher (as Nurse Ratched)
2 hour and 13 minutes