Based on the novel by Ken Kesey, this movie, set in a mental hospital, focuses on the relationships between Randle P. McMurphy, the other patients on the ward, and the subtly cruel Nurse Ratched. Early on, it is established that McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) faked insanity in order to avoid a prison sentence, believing that a mental institution would be easy time. Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), the head nurse in McMurphy’s ward, makes it her mission that McMurphy’s time will not be easy. The chemistry between McMurphy and Ratched is perfect, with McMurphy trying his best to play the role of a crazy person and Ratched trying her best to keep him in line. Ratched becomes more of a villain as the film progresses, not because of any outwardly despicable things she does, but because of the little, subtle undertones that color her behavior. Nicholson’s portrayal of McMurphy is not over-the-top, but rather perfectly within the boundaries between insanity and boyish fun. At times he taunts the other patients and other times he helps them reach for life beyond the walls of the hospital. At times he teases Nurse Ratched and other times his anger surfaces when he cannot understand her manipulation. The winner of all five of the top Academy Award prizes (picture, director, writing, actor, and actress), this is an excellent film, complemented with two terrific, on-target performances.
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