As it's gone so far, for the most part, my list has leaned a little more towards the comedy genre, as quite honestly, comedy is my favourite generalized genre. So one may be asking where all the big-time dramas are on this list, and rest assured, I do have a few more solid classics on the way. We start with what is probably my all-around favourite drama, 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'. Granted, perhaps not a title that's considered very PC these days, but trust me when I say that this movie has much more soul than the title may suggest.
To start things off, however, I should mention that this film came out in 1975, and takes place in 1963. During this span of time, a lot of varying colourful terminology and techniques were used at the psychiatric hospital. I feel like that's all very important to keep in mind when viewing this, just in case one might be easily triggered by something. That said, I think it's also important to keep in mind that this movie, despite a few intense moments, is for all intents and purposes, a feel-good movie. What makes this such a solid drama is its combination of all-out intensity, humour and characters who, once again, consist of a fantastically solid cast.
At the helm, of course, is Jack Nicholson playing Randal McMurphy. Jack is most definitely one of my all-time favourite actors, and I have my list of choice roles from him, but it has always been narrowed down to a coin-flip for his best performance for me. It's either this or 'The Shining', but if asked, I tend to lean towards this. Why? Well, this is one of the best examples of Jack showing his range. You get to see him go through every emotion in the human spectrum here, and he does such a good job of it that one can see his other characters almost coming through. For example, a scene in which he's being interviewed makes me think of his Joker performance every time.
Putting Jack aside, however, this movie is otherwise loaded with talent. The "villain" here is Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher), who somehow the movie makes you hate with some sort of passion by the end of it all. The catch, however, is that this is a character who's really just doing her job to the best of her abilities. She adds that sense of "unfairness" you had as a kid you got from any authority figure who said "no". By the end of the movie, not to spoil anything, you end up getting this sensation of wondering who exactly you should be rooting for. This is another thing that the film offers that I'm always such a sucker for - it humanizes its characters rather than just saying "this one's good, this one's bad".
There's a part of me that compares how this all goes down to a particular sequence in 'The Last of Us'. In case you're someone who hasn't played it yet, I'll just say "shoot the surgeons, or don't shoot the surgeons". There's none of that going on here, but the comparison is in your choice when it's all said and done. In 'The Last of Us', it shows the player what kind of morals they might have in the given situation. In this, your choice of who to side with between McMurphy and Ratched, I might say offers the same sort of concept. But sincerely, it's something one has to watch for themselves in order to get where I'm coming from. But the last couple of times I've watched this, that idea has really sunk in; what makes a person really bad or good?
Beyond the two mains, the cast further consists of Sydney Lassick as Cheswick, Christopher Lloyd as Tabor, Brad Dourif as Billy and Danny DeVito as Martini just to name a few of the very memorable patients who accompany Jack throughout the film. However, the most memorable side character here is "The Chief" played by Will Sampson. Again, perhaps the nickname isn't very PC these days, but the character himself is extremely likable - a sort of gentle giant of sorts, and a mute who no one can seem to get through to except good old McMurphy. He also makes for what is perhaps the most famous scene in the movie, but it's also the final scene, so I won't go spoiling anything. But I will drop a hint that 'The Simpsons' did a farce on it once (although that's really not a huge hint).
One thing I appreciate in my dramas is the idea that it engages every emotion. I want to be able to laugh and laugh well, but I want to feel the intensity, sadness, anger and everything else going on with the story as well. This is a great example of such a movie, and it does this so well that there are moments when you wonder whether or not you should be laughing. Again the point to drive home here is that it's a very humanized movie, and by the end of everything, it really does make you think. One thing that takes a lot of dramas off this list is my need to be in the mood for them, and that takes away the "repeat viewings" aspect I've really taken into consideration. This, however, is always an intriguing watch for me. The perfect combination of comedy, drama, feel-good and intensity.
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