Netflix’s 8 episodes series Ratched is based on the character of Nurse Ratched from the movie and book One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. The 1975 movie was a classic sweeping five major Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson) and Best Actress to Louise Fletcher as the film’s villainous Head Nurse Mildred Ratched. Louise Fletcher’s performance was so exceptional that her Nurse Ratched has ended up being one of cinema’s most memorable and iconic villains.
This all new Netflix series has the excellent Sarah Paulson (a regular in the American Horror Story franchise) taking on the title role in a lavish production. However, her portrayal Ratched here will unlikely have the same lasting impact of Louise Fletcher’s take of the same character. I feel the look and feel and style of this Ratched is more American Horror Story than One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. That means we have a no holds barred onslaught of unimaginable violence, sex, torture, and a host of bizarre characters. You will need to have a strong stomach and open mind to sit through the series as each episode has a staggering amount of violence. If you are okay with this, then, get ready for a rousing time binge watching this as it can get addictive with each episode ending in some sort of cliff hanger or critical moment. There is so much to enjoy and appreciate in this remarkable series. Apart from the stellar performances, the cinematography compliments the stunning beauty of the costumes, the exterior and interior sets perfectly and very colourfully. There is also the effective use of old fashion dramatic style music to heighten the excitement including the use of split screens reminiscent of what Brian de Palma often used in his thrillers. Throughout the series, subtle homage is paid to classic horror movies such as Psycho, The Shining, Cape Fear and Silence of the Lamb from the direction style, to the look and feel of the sets and the type of music chosen. In fact, some scenes were filmed in exactly the same from some of these movies using identical shots and angles from the original movies providing viewers who can recognise these iconic scenes something akin to Easter eggs to discover. Apart from Paulson, there is also Oscar worthy performances from 3 other veteran actresses, Judy Davis as the Head Nurse, Sharon Stone as a millionairess with a murder to commit, and TV’s Sex and the City’s Cynthia Nixon as a Governor’s Press Secretary that has a thing for Ratched. Each of them have many powerful scenes which showcased what wonderful actresses they all are. Even the lesser known stars and smaller supporting roles have the opportunity to shine and leave a lasting impression. Such is the trademark of of an excellent series.
At the end of the day, some viewers may be disappointed that the link with the original One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is just at face value and may probably feel this unworthy of the legacy that the original movie has left us. I guess if you look at this with that expectation, you cannot be faulted. After all this does come across more like a season of American Horror Story than a prequel to Cuckoo’s Nest. If I have any grudge to make I would have to say that the final two episodes were the weakest as things gets wrapped up too nicely. I also didn’t like its open ended conclusion that paths the way for a follow up season. While I look forward to more of Ratched, I have a nasty feeling that the following season will struggle to match the first season’s finesse.