Movie Twenty Seven
Full disclosure: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of my favorite movies. And books. And Jack Nicholson is my favorite actor. Now, you have been warned before I gush about the film.
One of the great debates with films that have a literary counterpart is: is the book better than the film? In most cases, the best films based on books capture the essence of the movie and can get away with making enough changes while remaining true to the original tale. They are also great movies in their own right. Cuckoo’s Nest is one of those rare cases where it is based on a book, but the two are vastly different.
In the Ken Kesey novel, the characters and setting and plot are all pretty much the same as their movie counterparts. Casting Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy is resplendence. In fact, all the casting is pitch-perfect. The biggest difference between the two mediums is that in the novel, Big Chief is the narrator and in the movie there is no narrator. It may not seem like a big difference, but it changes the entire tone of the movie. I would highly recommend reading the book along with watching the movie.
Back to the movie. R.P. McMurphy is brought from a prison work camp to a mental hospital where he thinks things will be easier for him. He becomes a guiding light for the patients there because he is so personable and confident. As he helps some of the patients grow he changes himself. The head of the floor, Nurse Ratched, is not accustomed to having anyone with a strong will as a patient and is adamant in cutting McMurphy down in size. In the end, we are left wondering who is really crazy?
Considering the movie is only about 40 years old and depicts what, at the time, was a fairly accurate portrayal of mental hospitals, it’s quite shocking. Some of the patients are voluntarily admitted, and we wonder why. They obviously are socially deficient, but should they really be subjected to such conditions? Another one of my favorite movies of all-time, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest gets a strong recommendation from me.
I give it 5 electoshock therapies out of 5.