I am sure that all my fellow movie freaks would have been awed by atleast one role of Jack Nicholson in his stellar career spanning over 30 years. I have been a great fan of Jack Nicholson’s after watching “The Shining”, directed by Stanley Kubrick, which is truly a masterpiece in its own sense. I should confess that I am dumb enough to miss most of his movies, a mistake for which I should start seeking atonement at the earliest. Here I shall be talking about Nicholson’s Randall Patrick McMurphy in “One Flew over the cuckoo’s nest”, the movie adaptation of Ken Kasey’s book, of the same name.
One flew starts off in a bland picturesque locale with a car driving in McMurphy to a mental asylum. This mental asylum presents a picture of disdain, with patients merely surviving, leading a mundane life, with little or no hope of getting better.
McMurphy faces five assault charges and fakes mental illness to come to this institution with the sole intention of serving his remaining time in ‘luxury’, than in the grim environment of prison. However, he quickly finds out that surviving the institution with its desolate patients and the monstrously repressive Nurse Ratchet [Lousie Fletcher] is much harder than he imagined. But McMurphy is aggressively optimistic and his optimism pervades the institution, uplifting the spirits of its battered inmates. He takes them fishing, plays basketball with them, places impossible bets with them and even sets up date for a stuttering kid. I am not aware of this actor’s name, but his portrayal of the stuttering character Billy is impeccable and is definitely worth a mention. McMurphy strikes a friendship with a deaf and mute Native American inmate[whom he calls ‘Chief’] which is of a great significance in the movie. This is the best I can say without letting out any spoilers.
Nicholson truly bags the best moments of the film. One brilliant scene has him doing an imaginary play-by-play commentary of the 1963 World Series to the group of inmates, who are not allowed to watch the game on TV. It is a poetic sequence and Nicholson goes crazy with his delivery, describing baseball with colorful anecdotes and profanity. Another scene which has to be mentioned is the one wherein the camera is fixed on him while he is drunk. His expression changes from a sheepish smile to one filled with hope to the next with a forced smile, and finally drowsy, completely overcome by alcohol. These two scenes are few of the many hallmarks of Nicholson’s caliber as an actor.
Coming to the different aspects of the movie; the cinematography is flawlessly bleak and sets a perfect backdrop to aid the director in conveying the mood of the story. The background score is apt, dead silent when necessary, adding that extra punch to the scene. The direction by Milos Forman is top notch, bringing out the best from all his actors, from being uniquely uplifting to devastatingly depressing. One flew culminates in a powerful climax which brings out a myriad of conflicting emotions in the viewer, very apt for the story and brilliantly executed.
All in all, One flew over the cuckoo’s nest is a must watch for all those lovers of intense cinema with a penchant for poignant films . . .