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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this adult drama laced with humor deals with life-and-death issues and is set in a hospital psychiatric ward. Intense situations alternate with comic moments, and underlying all are the weighty topics of tyranny, sacrifice, and the fragility of the human mind. There are scenes of sustained cruelty, forcible restraint of mental patients, fighting, and two deaths (including a suicide). Language is strong throughout: "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "jerk off," and a multitude of other expressions, including slurs such as "queer," "dumb Indian" and more. Characters smoke constantly, drink, and get drunk in one out-of-control party sequence.
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What's the story?
Three decades have done little to diminish the power of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. Based on Ken Kesey's novel by the same name, the film addresses the trials of Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), a petty criminal who decides to feign insanity to get out of time behind bars and into the easy life at the mental ward. Once inside the white-walled hospital, McMurphy finds himself pitted against Nurse Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher). While Nurse Ratched manipulates patients in group therapy and uses a regime of medication and electroshock to maintain control, McMurphy demands the right to watch baseball playoffs and takes the men outside the hospital grounds on a fishing trip. As the conflict escalates, the line between the crazy and the sane grows increasingly blurry.
Is it any good?
Milos Forman's 1975 film adaptation of the Ken Kesey novel is a classic for good reason, starting with Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher who turn in near-perfect performances. Supporting cast members, including Danny DeVito as Martini and Christopher Lloyd as Taber, create a band of institution residents who are warm despite evidence of their insanity. Forman's direction is dead-on, as he manages to capture the monotony of routine on the ward without allowing the film to drag.
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