One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
The story begins with Randle McMurphy's admission to a psychiatric ward for evaluation. McMurphy is not mentally ill. He is a petty felon, a prison inmate who is faking mental problems in order to avoid the grueling prison work details. He thinks that the cushy life in a mental word, playing cards and wearing pajamas all day, will have to be a significant improvement over the endless days of back-breaking labor on the prison farm.
The essence of the story results from following the premise through. What impact will a perfectly sane, anti-establishment, rabble-rouser have on the population of cuckoos? Will the staff think his rebellious sanity is actually a lack of co-operation with their established routine? McMurphy seems like the ultimate bull in their china shop, with his eternal challenges to their authority, and his boisterous nature amid the sedated patients and the perpetually eerie elevator music playing in the background.
|McMurphy and the head nurse form the battle lines for control of the ward. During the course of the film, McMurphy breathes life into the loonies, and enriches their lives in many ways, but Big Nurse must win some battles because she makes the rules.||
Her first significant chess move against McMurphy is to persuade the committee that McMurphy may actually have some mental problems, and should stay in the ward. At first, this seems to be exactly what McMurphy wants, but the nurse's external politeness masks the heart of a cobra. If McMurphy had been sent back to prison, he would have been released in 68 days. But commitment to a mental ward, with a judgment that he might be dangerous, could extend his confinement indefinitely. His great plan backfired. He traded 68 days of hard work for a lifetime in a mental institution. She then opts for heavy medication, electric shock treatments, and ....
Despite Big Nurse's power, there was a point when McMurphy could have gotten away, but he postponed his escape to do a great favor for a fellow inmate. Because of his generosity, he fell asleep and got busted. It is McMurphy's character development which takes the story beyond amusing and makes it truly great. When McMurphy first came into the hospital, he was amusing and life-affirming for the other patients, but he was also completely self-centered. As the movie progressed, his attitude changed, and he developed a legitimate paternal concern for his fellow patients. In the end, he didn't snap against the authorities because he was abused personally, but because of the injustice of the system and the way that system abused his friends. Eventually, he snapped into a physical attack which allowed Big Nurse to take her ultimate revenge.
The bittersweet ending reveals that McMurphy won a victory even in his loss. Although his body was crushed by the system, his spirit endured through the others in the ward, especially the gigantic unspeaking Native American who seemed to take on McMurphy's soul. Part of the structural beauty of the film is that The Chief and McMurphy seem to switch places during the course of the story.
The film swept all the five major
Academy Awards in 1976 (picture,
director, actor, actress, screenplay), the first time that had
happened in 45 years (Frank
Capra's It Happened One Night).
Unlike a lot of films
which pandered to the anti-establishment "youth culture" of the
sixties and early seventies, One Flew over the
Cuckoo's Nest still seems fresh and relevant, and could just as
easily take place today. Although author Ken Kesey is well known for
his adventures in the hippie years, this book was actually written in
1962, before the cultural revolution. It is a movie about human dignity, pride,
inspiration, and courage. After nearly three decades, its greatness
has been confirmed, and it is currently rated twelfth of all time at
IMDb. Nicholson's performance as Randle McMurphy is honored as one of
the most memorable in screen history, and the director said "Jack
Nicholson was sent from heaven. He doesn't just play R.P. MacMurphy.
He is R.P. MacMurphy." The cast of nuts includes some
memorable performances from an assortment of character actors,
including future stars Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd.
The new 2-disk DVD set includes a new digital transfer and remastered soundtrack, a feature-length commentary by the director, nine additional scenes, and a documentary on the making of the film.
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