Director: Miloš Forman
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher
‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ is just another in a long line of classic films that I’ve taken far too long to get around to watching. I regard Jack Nicholson as the greatest actor ever, and that’s before I saw ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ (I will refer to the film as this from now on to save my fingers). Legend has it, this is Nicholson’s definitive performance, which certainly says a lot. But it’s true, all of it. One of the most iconic films of all time and number 16 on the IMDb top 250, ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ is an absolute must-see.
A criminal by the name of R.P. McMurphy (Nicholson) pleads insanity in an attempt to get out of prison time, heads into an asylum and proceeds to wind up the crazies and piss off the nursing staff. Little does he know, his actions are not without consequence though, and he may just prove to be a little too crazy for his own good. ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ is basically just Jack Nicholson running amok in a mental hospital, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and at times, shockingly intense.
I’ve praised Jack Nicholson a lot already, but he is quite simply outstanding. On this showing, he’s incredibly funny and oddly likeable for such a delinquent of a character. Nicholson is absolutely deserving of the Academy Award for best actor for his performance here. From the way he speaks, his facial expressions and just his whole demeanour; Nicholson pulls off every aspect of this character and makes it immensely authentic. Whenever I caught a mention of this film, I got the impression that the “antagonist”, if you like, Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), was one of the most evil and cruel movie villains of all time. She is a calculated and ruthless head nurse who successfully passes off the “cruel to be kind” persona to mask her underlying vindictive and controlling ways. It’s a subtle performance – she’s not the kind of in-your-face mega-bitch I expected – but marvellous all the same.
My only criticism is that the film is quite dated, visually speaking, but hell, it is over 40 years old now. Aside from that, ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’ is more than compensated by a truly brilliant story and a perfect script. The dark comedy elements of the film are incredibly portrayed by Nicholson, who you just can’t help but find hilarious. His use of the word “cunt” is beautifully placed and expertly carried out by a man I suspect has used that word a few times before. It’s a film which is equally entertaining as it is uncomfortable to watch at times. The electro-shock therapy scenes and the outbursts from other mental patients is quite difficult to endure, but just adds to the authenticity of the production.
I can’t believe I stalled for so long on watching this film, but I’m just glad I got to it and enjoyed it as much as I had hoped. The film itself is pretty great, but when you add in the performance of Jack Nicholson, ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ is rightly elevated to classic status. You’d be mad not to watch it.