I appreciate that most people would place this film much higher on the list. It is regarded a classic and is (at time of writing) in the top ten films ever on the IMDB website. Personally, I would not put it this high.
‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ is the tale of McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a convicted criminal who decides that rather than being in prison it would be easier to pretend that he is mad and spend time in a mental institution. Once in the asylum he tries to liven the place up with games and general high jinx, but finds himself clashing with the head nurse, the formidable Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), who wants order and routine returned to the hospital.
As it is only the second of three films to win the big five awards, the two leads cannot be ignored. Nicholson is over-the-top as always. He plays McMurphy will a manic joy that only he could. Nicholson is not one of my favourite actors, I find that his default mode is over-the-top no matter what the part, even in more serious films such as ‘The Departed’, which is yet to come on the countdown, and whereas this film is set in an asylum, I’m not as transfixed by his performance as I would have liked to have been, because I’d seen it all before.
Fletcher’s performance I prefer much much more. She manages to be cold and joyless and manages to control the film whenever she is on the screen, which is remarkable as she does very little throughout the duration. Whenever she is not in the film I either found my attention waning or I became annoyed by Nicholson’s character, neither of which I wanted.
My problem with the film (I say problem loosely, it’s still manages to make it near the middle of my ranking) is that it’s so of its era, that I find it bares very little relevance today. Nicholson is supposed to be the hero, but in reality he’s a criminal who main aim is to destroy an institution. Fletcher is supposed to be this big villain, on the American Film Industry’s List of 50 Villains of all time she appears at number 5, one place below The Wicked Witch of the West and 10 places above Ralph Fiennes in ‘Schindler’s List’ and why…? Because she tried to restore some order in an asylum whilst some criminal is running amok.
It’s a film very much of its age. It’s an anti-establishment film and as such an important film it should be watched as a simple of its age, but do I think it’s a great film? No. I think that the characters are largely simplified to the point that they become too obvious and that Nicholson over-acts for the majority of the film. The story is actually pretty good given the characters provided, and from a technical point of the film is fine, given the confines of an asylum, but there are very little opportunities for glorious sweeping shots of dramatic scenery, and it cannot be considered a great film on this front. In short I appreciate the finer points of this film, but ultimately it enters the category of films that I consider to be important rather than brilliant.