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  • One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest[1975]

    Posted by amaranta on July 12, 2015 in Movies

    One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest

    Genre: Drama

    Stars: Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito

    Director: Milos Forman

    When One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest came out in 1975, it won in all five major Oscar categories –

    Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screen Play. It is the second of

    only three films to do this (the other two are It Happened One Night [1934] and Silence of the Lambs

    [1991]). It went on to win multiple other awards at both the Golden Globes and BAFTA, and quickly

    became an American Classic

    The story is about Randall Patrick Murphy (Jack Nicholson) a freewheeling everyman who is

    imprisoned for statutory rape (he swears the girl – who was 15 – looked 18) and pretends to be

    ‘crazy’ so that he’ll be transferred to a psychiatric facility, which he imagines would be easier to

    handle than actual jail. While at the facility, he forms tenuous relationships with the other inmates

    and starts to buck the authority of the nurses in charge, specifically a manipulative, passive-

    aggressive Nurse Ratched. His instinct to push back when threatened changes the atmosphere of the

    facility as the other inmates begin to challenge authority too.

    While Jack Nicholson does hand in a noteworthy performance (coming off successes like Chinatown

    [1974] and Easy Rider [1975]), the movie stands out in the honest, deliberate manner with which it

    explores mental illness and the mental institutions (or asylums, as they were called back then). It’s

    fashionable to criticize the heavy-handedness of mental health professionals (and the movie does its

    fair share of that) but it takes dedication to examine the complexities in defining, containing, and

    ‘curing’ mental illness. The movie takes no short-cuts, and explores the authority that doctors and

    nurses have over those labelled as mentally ill; at the same time poignantly outlining why that

    authority is needed.

    More than anything else though, the movie is about relationships: the ongoing confrontation

    between Jack Nicholson’s character and Head Nurse Ratched, and his amusing interactions with the

    loveable other inmates. These inmates are played by some actors who would go on to become

    famous, like Danny DeVito (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Christopher Lloyd (Back to the


    One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (the title is from a children’s nursery rhyme) is not a light-hearted

    film, but is well worth the watch. It is slow moving, like many movies of its generation, but that gives

    you time to thoroughly absorb the nuances. It’s got a great plot, good acting, and a chilling twist of

    an ending.

    Watch the trailer for One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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