Gary Cruise’s review published on Letterboxd:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a 70s drama following a criminal who pleads insanity after getting into trouble again and once in the mental institution rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.
A lot of the movies I’ve watched so far for the movies to watch before Joker list have been character studies but, as much as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest does have a fascinating lead character, this feels very much like a group character study rather than on one particular individual. This movie is a Best Picture winner at the Oscars and it’s very clear to see why. I know it’s listed as a drama but really it’s a movie that never really feels like it assigns itself to a specific genre. There are moments where it feels darkly comedic but there are just as many, if not more, moments where the movie feels deadly serious and rather emotional no matter how crazy the characters are acting during said moments.
Jack Nicholson has always been one of my favourite actors thanks to his outstanding performances in the likes of The Shining, Batman and The Departed. This movie has just higher my appreciation for the fantastic actor even further. Nicholson provides an Oscar winning performance as lead character R. P. McMurphy. When we are first introduced to the character, it is clear that he is just in the institution to escape some form of trouble he’s gotten himself into but as the movie goes on it becomes apparent that being within the institution is slowly making him go crazy. It’s an effective performance only made better by Nicholson’s signature bit of madness that will instantly feel familiar for anyone who has seen his later roles.
Nicholson’s interaction with all of the other actors in this movie is such a joy to watch. The chemistry between every character in this movie is on another level. Whilst Nicholson provides a scene stealing stand out performance, everyone else is incredible and every character bounces off one another in such a believable yet entertaining way. The likes of Danny DeVito, Brad Dourif and Christopher Lloyd (to name a few) all appear in very early roles as patients in the institution. All of the patients are really likeable characters who get so much character development as the movie goes on, helping draw you into their stories more and more. Louise Fletcher is less likeable than the patients in her role as Nurse Ratched. Fletcher won an Oscar for this incredible performance. She provides a very stern and serious portrayal of the character and constantly puts so much into the role.
The cinematography is excellent in this movie. With most of the movie being set within the institution, we’re given a very bright yet pale colour scheme that still manages to provide the movie with quite a dull feeling which helps add to the more serious side of things. When Nicholson helps break everyone out for the day, the look of the outside world in comparison to the main location of the institution really adds a noticeably big change which comes across as a massive feel good feeling for these characters to get freedom. Everyone’s happy in this scene and it really is great to watch; it almost makes their happiness contagious. Throughout most of this movie there’s a lack of a soundtrack which adds an absent, empty feeling to everything happening on screen, allowing the well written dialogue and excellently acted scenes to speak for themselves without any form of music to inform the audience of how they should be feeling. It’s an effective method that leaves a lot open for interpretation.
Overall, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a rollercoaster of the movie that is sure to have you crying, laughing and even feeling frustrated at some of the happenings within it’s 2 hour and 13 minutes runtime. Nicholson leads this movie in a performance that is bound to captivate you from his first seconds on screen until his last.
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