Honest Review: Film version of Cuckoo’s Nest strayed from the book

Hello, and welcome to Honest Reviews. Today we’re taking a look at the 1975 film version of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” which I recently watched in my Senior Humanities class. Something definitely flew over this “nest,” but it wasn’t a bird. It was the mind of this director. Milos Forman was trying to recreate some of the … rather eventful things we’ve heard about this classic American novel published in 1962 by Ken Kesey. But, to be quite honest, he failed amazingly.

Let’s address something, though, before I get into the negatives. Jack Nicholson is amazing in this movie as McMurphy, a rather hyperactive individual who causes some problems (including strangling someone in the end); there’s no denying that. His acting is magnificent as usual, although I admit that’s coming from someone who loves his acting style.

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for… Let’s talk all about what made this book-to-film adaptation so very wrong.

 We have all of the characters as described in the book, set in a brutal mental ward in the 1960s. Oh wait, no we don’t. Harding doesn’t have those rather delicate hands that the book mentions. Oh no, you should see the size of them! They could fit a child’s head inside of them! For those of your wondering who Harding is, he is supposed to be a rather smart individual and very talkative. He is in the book, but the movie practically strips all of his dialogue (or makes it too simplistic).

But the Nurse is still there, right? Yeah, but she’s not looking as the book described. You would think that she would have the body to match the vivid descriptions of the book, but no. In this book, the Nurse really seems to be described as a rather busty looking woman, with an obnoxiously mean personality. Played by actress Louise Fletcher, Nurse Ratched has the body of a rather anorexic-looking woman.

There are way too many inconsistencies in this film to count, so why don’t we bounce back over to the positives for a moment?

To be honest, I think that Fletcher plays her part really well. I mean, she has the same attitude the Nurse has in the book, despite her physical differences. When it came down to the voting process of whether or not to allow the patients to watch the World Series, her attitude was still stone cold, refusing to count the votes. Nicholson does a great job of portraying McMurphy’s boisterous and vibrant personality, seeing as his acting is usually off the wall. In fact, I think everyone does a good job, in terms of line delivery. The director proves he did indeed read the book with the accurate portrayal of the scene where Candy (a newer female character) breaks into the ward with some booze to share.

Now back to the inconsistencies that drive me up a wall.

 For one, the novel is supposed to be told from the point of view of Chief Bromden, the rather strong and silent type, so when the movie randomly makes the switch to McMurphy’s point of view, it threw me completely off. Not only this, but McMurphy seems rather energized for someone who just entered a mental institution in the ‘60s, doesn’t he? Maybe there’s something in his mind telling him he’s actually insane. I’d say Nicholson himself is insane and not McMurphy, but ignoring potential mental illness, let’s move on. The hospital seems more frantic than it was described in the book, doesn’t it? People running around screaming, mumbling to themselves in the halls… It feels like an early ‘90s MTV music video. Am I supposed to be enthralled… Or creeped out?

And while the movie actually manages to follow through with Bromden revealing that he can talk, he doesn’t talk as much as he did in the book! sigh See, you can’t look into the light for too long in this movie, can you? Before you know it, you will be burned. Also, hey! Milos also got the whole Nurse strangulation thing right too, another MAJOR plot point… That happens just before McMurphy is sent up to be lobotomized. How ironic. The Nurse feels weak at that point, all (probably) because she’s lost her dignity and pride, all because she refused to send McMurphy up when she could’ve earlier on in the story.

 At least the director got the ending right! It’s a miracle! Yes, the whole “Chief smothering McMurphy” thing wasn’t ignored after all. I mean, I understand if you don’t think that McMurphy should live after being lobotomized, but let the man die on his own. That took some dignity out of McMurphy for me to be honest. I am still happy that the Director incorporated the correct ending, and didn’t fade to black or something.

In fact, let me end the review by saying this: This movie was okay. I mean, it wasn’t crystal clear in terms of getting some details correct… like some major dialogue! But, the acting was well done, Forman at least carried over a majority of the scenes correctly, and the movie was in the right spirit. Although mental hospitals are completely different nowadays, I still got goosebumps before I even get to the ending!

 Overall Rating (IMDB Based):  7.5/10

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