One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Directed by Milos Forman
Written by Lawrence Hauben & Bo Goldman

This has been sitting on my shelf, literally, for months. Maybe even more than a year. I bought it at a used DVD store so long ago, but never found the time, or more importantly the motivation for some reason to watch it. The first Forman film I saw was Ragtime, which I watched for a class and left me completely underwhelmed. Then I moved on to Amadeus after a similar time period between when I decided to watch it to when I actually watched it. It was a long time coming. Despite this film sitting next to my TV for many many months, I had no real feel for what to expect. I knew it was renowned and had something to do with a mental institution and Jack Nicholson, but style, plot, supporting cast, all blanks going in.

To be honest I was once again underwhelmed by Forman. Ragtime just seemed to be about a lot of different people and never really amounted to anything I ever really cared about, though my focus may have affected my perception there. Amadeus was a wonder to behold, mostly aided my the marvelous performances and great music. The feel of that film just made me happy on the inside while watching it. So then there is this film. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. So much attention and acclaim. Five Academy Awards including Best Picture, all the five biggest categories: Actor, Actress, Picture, Director, and Screenplay. Quite remarkable for a film that seemed to be going nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fine filmmaking and there was nothing really I could say about the craft, except that I didn’t see it going anywhere, I couldn’t see what Forman was going for. The acting was good, but nothing overly great to watch. Like I said, no qualms, just nothing to wow me or to point to and say, “That is why this movie is an all time great.”

But of course there is the old adage in Filmspotting land: “If the first act isn’t good enough to buy me into the second act, and if the second act doesn’t buy me into the third…” Haha, too bad I don’t follow the rules. How many times have I sat through what seemed to be a waste of my time only to have the third act of a film rock me to my core and make everything else I’ve seen worth while? Well, the best example I have for this is Magnolia. No, I take that back. The best example I have for that is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest because the third act alone deserved every award, each bit of acclaim, it received. It was truly some of the best cinema, and for reasons I cannot even really pinpoint. It all just worked for me. The story was able to come together and make a great film. Now if I am comparing this to his other films, I cannot really say if I liked it better than Amadeus. I was compelled there the whole way through, so I am tempted to favor Amadeus, but I feel like I should go back and watch this film again because I feel like it will age quite nicely. Chalk another one up to my massive Director Marathon.

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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