Behavioral comedy, his forte, is suffocated by nastiness and sentimental antics in Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a simplistic melodrama based on Ken Kesey’s novel by way of Dale Wasserman’s play. Its mawkish antiestablishmentarianism is passé now, and its misogynism remains strident and reprehensible. Forman manipulated audiences toward an expression of their ugliest moods, although it is on the basis of the hollow script, by Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman, that a number of high-profile actresses turned down the part of Nurse Ratched because of its misogynistic intent: Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Colleen Dewhurst, Faye Dunaway, Jane Fonda, Angela Lansbury, Jeanne Moreau, Geraldine Page. Each of these women ought to be commended for putting decency and female solidarity ahead of career and personal ambition—although excellent Louise Fletcher’s acceptance speech in sign language did give Oscar one of its memorable moments.
     Randle Patrick McMurphy is a thorn in the side of the Oregon state mental institution to which he has been transferred. He opposes the hospital’s rules on general principle, and we cannot help but wonder whether his hospitalization is predicated on his difficulty for society. He doesn’t seem mentally ill—nor does every other patient in the facility; and regarding those who do we wonder whether their more or less incarceration contributes to or even causes their “illness.”
     Jack Nicholson, no redhead, isn’t tall enough to play McMurphy. Totally miscast, he substitutes his trademark alienation for McMurphy’s anarchism. This, one of his worst performances, also brought him an Oscar.
     When young, pimply, stuttering Billy commits suicide, McMurphy assaults Nurse Ratched, whom he blames, pinning her on the floor. The scene is shot as though he is raping her. Audiences cheer.
     Oscars, also, for best picture, director, script.

2 thoughts on “ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST (Milos Forman, 1975)

  1. La Moreau as Nurse Ratched? I would have voluntarily committed myself.

    Yeah, I never could figure out the fuss over this very mean spirited clunker.

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