The Ken Kesey novel, which you cannot have avoided without some degree of stubbornness, uses a mental-ward setting to allegorize a 1960s anti-Establishment orthodoxy -- the guardians need watching more than the guarded. Really, the hero figure, Jack Nicholson's McMurphy, is too much a self-interested manipulator to pass inspection as a spokesman for Life and Liberty. Still, Milos Forman's treatment, unbothered, stresses the sentimentalities and rousing spiritual victories -- Nicholson's World Series play-by-play in front of a blank TV screen, the patients-versus-orderlies basketball game, the giant Indian's escape into the wilderness. Forman, depending largely on 'round-the-horn close-up reaction shots, handles the assorted nuts democratically, in a panel-moderator manner -- your turn, your turn, your turn. The preponderance of greenish face shots does not add up to a very flexible movie. But the actors deliver convincing, if superficial, impersonations. And Nicholson, of course, dominates -- a cunning, entertaining, attention-getting interpretation of a cunning, entertaining, attention-craving character. (1975) — Duncan Shepherd
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