Sunday, September 19, 2010

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

This was the second movie I saw in a row to win those five major Oscars I mentioned, and the second time one of those was a bit fishy. Louise Fletcher does a very good job playing the movie's strict authority figure Nurse Ratched, but it's hardly a lead role. Jack Nicholson's a much better fit for that kind of award, and gives probably the best performance of his that I've seen as McMurphy, a criminal who gets transferred to a mental institution, even though there might not be anything really wrong with him. I still don't quite get why he's one of his generations most beloved actors, because I feel like his whole manic persona is interesting but not particularly difficult for most good actors to pull off. But it's a good performance in the center of a movie filled with them.

Really, if nothing else, the film has a king's ransom of good actors plying their craft in one of the most easily respected ways: as an insane person. There's a variety of mental issues on display, and no one out of the group, famous or not, doesn't pull it off well. Some guys do a good job in their wheelhouse, like a very recognizable Christopher Lloyd, but a couple completely disappear into their parts and I was shocked to learn that they were in the movie after the fact. Brad Dourif is practically a teenager, also getting an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a troubled and suicidal young man, and Danny DeVito is also surprisingly invisible as Martini. Of course, Jack is the center of attention, as the movie is about how he shakes things up inside the ward after he gets admitted, and what impact if any he has on the men inside after he leaves. Another very good movie, and one that's nice to finally check off my list of shame.

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