If there’s one thing that most people can agree on, it’s that “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” is a brilliant movie. The direction by Milos Forman is tight and languid, allowing the narrative to follow its natural course and establish its own pace by focusing his lens on the circumstances that surround the main characters (specifically a run-down, low-funded mental institution in coastal America) before delving into their interpersonal dynamics, which make up the majority of the movie’s plot. The cast is also stupendous: Led by Jack Nicholson’s legendary performance as McMurphy, there’s a litany of soon-to-be-famous faces throughout (including a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance by Anjelica Huston) that each manage to make an impression, in particular a completely believable Sydney Lassick as Cheswick and a heartbreakingly vulnerable Brad Dourif as Billy. But really, for me, this is all about Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratchet: Despite the popular understanding of Ratchet as a domineering masochist, I believe she’s a well-intentioned professional doing the best she can within the ever-underfunded mental health department, and that McMurphy is actually the villain the piece. Fletcher’s performance is deliberate and ice-cold, but Fletcher never forgets that Ratchet is a professional faced with an antisocial, disruptive presence in Nicholson’s McMurphy, who has a history of assault, statutory rape, and faking mental illness. It’s interesting to see how everyone loves this movie but has such different opinions about its contents… which, to me, is a sure sign of a true masterpiece.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)