Yesterday, this column reviewed "Amadeus," which won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1984. Nine years earlier, the talented Foreman directed "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," which also won the Academy Award for Best Picture, as well as awards in all the major categories.
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is based on a book by Ken Kesey and stars Jack Nicholson as R.P. McMurphy, a clever, happy-go-lucky sort jailed for statutory rape. Eager to avoid prison work, he feigns mental illness and is transferred to a mental facility, where the living conditions are less restrictive than the prison. There, he befriends the other patients who begin to turn to him for leadership. His popularity and subversive behavior annoys the tightly-wound, controlling Nurse Ratched (played by Louise Fletcher), and she and McMurphy become rivals.
In "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Jack Nicholson signals what has proved to be a career-long gift for superb performances as benevolent opportunists. On one hand, McMurphy is devoted to his own comforts and well being, but he comes to care for the other patients and risks his own well-being in his attempts to empower them. Louise Fletcher is also great as Nurse Ratched. She is very cold, very calm, and very scary. Both Nicholson and Fletcher won Academy Awards for their performances.
There are many memorable supporting characters in the film. Among them is Billy (played by Brad Dourif), a poignant patient with a stuttering problem. Another is Chief Bromden, a tall Indian who may or may not be a mute.
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is a must-see for fans of classic cinema.