For the first time, a listing covers both a book and a movie. Both are exceptionally good, and could be here separately. But that would be a little silly, wouldn’t it? So we honor them together.
I enjoyed reading Ken Kesey’s novel more than any book I’ve ever read. I’m not saying it’s the best book, only that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of living with these characters, and didn’t want the book to end. Especially considering the way it ended, which is absolutely truthful but difficult to handle.
The book was based on Kesey’s experiences as a night orderly at a mental health facility in California. Randle McMurphy was a minor convict who faked insanity to spend the rest of his sentence away from the work farm in what he considered the easier confines of a mental institution. McMurphy is one of the greatest characters I’ve ever encountered in fiction, and the ensemble of patients are also brilliantly created.
The film starred Jack Nicholson as McMurphy and featured a chilling performance by Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched. The film went on to sweep the Oscars that year, winning Best Picture, Director (Milos Forman), Actor, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay. But many of you book lovers can relate to my reaction – I came out of the theater disappointed. More than two hours long, and it just hit the highlights of the book. It was certainly an excellent movie, and I appreciate it more now, after the memory of the book’s details have faded a bit.
Ken Kesey is said to have never seen the movie. He was never pleased that the film changed the point-of-view character to McMurphy from Chief Bromden. But if you haven’t seen it, you definitely should. Then read the novel. Going in that order will have the effect of filling in layers, rather than having them removed.
Here’s Jack Nicholson at his best, and Louise Fletcher at her scariest: