Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Danny DeVito, Will Sampson
Bo Goldman, Lawrence Haubman
Having witnessed some incredibly weak, and occasionally horrid stage adaptations of Broadway plays, it is with great joy that I announce the utter brilliance of the Jack Nicholson led cast of the Milos Forman film "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest."
As Randle P. McMurphy, Nicholson brings an electricity, energy and mesmerizing presence that almost dares to be turned away from...as the foil to Louise Fletcher's Nurse Ratched, Nicholson is daring, bold and constantly exciting to behold. However, he is not alone. The entire film radiates with an excitement that is seldom captured effectively onscreen. Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is funny yet frightening, original yet entirely believable. Having worked in inpatient psychiatric care for years, I found myself recognizing these characters, patients and professionals, and realizing that there was a fine line between them.
Along with Nicholson and Fletcher, the supporting cast shines including the wonderfully understated Will Sampson as Chief, Brad Dourif as Billy Bibbitt, Danny DeVito as Martini and many, many others including Scatman Crothers and Christopher Lloyd.
The screenplay by Bo Goldman contains wonderful, authentic dialogue with a well-developed and constantly involving plotline.
From the silence of Sampson's Chief to the rowdiness of Nicholson's McMurphy, the entire cast melds together and forms one of cinema's best ensemble performances. Every aspect of this film's production design is stellar from the sets to the costumes to the score to the cinematography. Quite simply, it excels in every area.
The film, originally a Broadway production, never feels like one. The staging is such that the film plays like the sum of its parts...it feels whole, looks whole and is incredibly satisfying.
Much like many of my truly favorite films, this film isn't what I'd term "enjoyable" in the lighter sense of the word. Yet, it is incredibly enjoyable and deeply satisfying cinema. Nicholson gives, in my opinion, the greatest performance of a mind-bogglingly wonderful career. In his first theatrical performance, DeVito is simply hypnotic. While Fletcher never found a role again that revealed the quality of this performance...nonetheless, in this role she was simply powerful and commanding.
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is a scary film...a sad film...and yet, in many ways, it is a celebration of life and freedom and community. It is a film that will stay with you long after you have watched it...and you will remember the lines and the faces and the stares and the feelings. It is American filmmaking at its absolutely finest.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic