Director: Milos Forman
Running time: 133 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18
USA Release date: 19th November 1975
Watched on Sky+ Saturday 20th August 2011.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
Based on a novel by Ken Kesey, and later a play by Dale Wasserman, this film won 5 Oscars including; Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. So it looks like it’s a ‘must see’, which, to a large extent, it is. I did find, though, that as a translation of a novel/stage play to the big screen it did suffer from being just a little too, well, theatrical (for want of a better word). I don’t want to detract from some truly excellent performances, but, as a whole, I did come away very slightly disappointed. As usual, my thoughts after this brief summary.
R.P. McMurphy has been transferred from a local prison to a mental hospital for observation. The authorities believe he is trying to feign mental illness to get out of his work detail and, to this end, they want a professional opinion. He is put into a ward under the watchful care of Nurse Ratched, a quite formidable, but caring, woman. The other ‘inmates’ have a variety of problems and demonstrate these in a variety of ways. McMurphy immediately tries to put his brand of democracy on his comrades in his first group discussion, but Nurse Ratched is having none of it. Thus begins a battle of wills that, at times is frustrating, uplifting, emotional, funny and even tragic. Life continues like this, and McMurphy even makes a big enough impact to be kept there and not be returned to prison. But when he discovers that he is not just there until the end of his sentence, but until they decide he’s sane enough to leave, things take a turn. Now determined to leave for good, McMurphy hatches a plan to escape with at least one of his new friends. I’ll leave it here so the Spoiler Police don’t try to put me back in that institution.
As I’ve already hinted, tremendous performances from both the leading man, Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy and the leading lady, Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched. Both were superb; Nicholson with his free-flowing, improvised style and Fletcher with her more measured approach. Also worthy of note were; Danny DeVito, who I hardly recognised, as Martini, Sydney Lassick as Charley Cheswick, Christopher Lloyd as Taber, Vincent Schiavelli as Fredrickson, Brad Dourif as Billy Bibbit, Mews Small as Candy and, not forgetting, Will Sampson as Chief Bromden.
I did find this film a little bit like watching a play at times, it did branch out occasionally, but the vast majority of the action takes place on the ward, which I did find slightly claustrophobic. It was very well made, with quite a few scenes, particularly those featuring Jack Nicholson, being improvised to some extent. I really enjoyed these scenes, as they were allowed to evolve… I would really love to see some outtakes! Over all though, an interesting film that deserves all the accolades it’s got over the years… For me, a little bit too much like a play, but then I can only be honest about how I feel about it. Even so, highly recommended.
My Score: 9.1/10.
IMDb Score: 8.9/10 (based on 260,412 votes when this review was written).
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96/100 (based on 51 reviews counted when this review was written).