Ebert, Roger (1975). One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Retrieved April 11, 2008, from rogerebert.com Web site: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19750101/REVIEWS/501010348/1023
In his 1975 film review of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Roger Ebert lauds the film for possessing stretches of brilliance, but states that the factor which keeps the movie from being great is director Forman's insistence on trying to assign to it a broader philosophical meaning. According to Ebert, the film attempts to be more significant than its story will allow. For example, in the scene in which Billy is discovered sharing a bed with one of the women McMurphy brought to the ward, Billy talks back to Nurse Ratched, his usual stutter conspicuously missing from his voice. The intention of this message is clear: it is devised to show that Billy has been liberated to some degree by both McMurphy and his nighttime experience. However, it lacks subtlety, and takes away from the film's generally thoughtful and three-dimensional characterizations. In fact, according to Ebert, it is these characterizations that constitute the best aspects of the film. Ebert believes that Forman should have focused his efforts on examining the characters and using their interactions to develop the film, rather than trying to create an antiestablishment parable.
I agree with the review on many of its key points. The movie's strongest facet is its ability to develop its characters and portray them in a way that demonstrates their change and growth throughout the story. McMurphy's significance as a character does not lie in his crusade against the establishment; rather, it is his ability as an individual to change the patients around him, and, by interacting with them in his carefree, individualistic manner, to release them of their inhibitions. It is also interesting how each character responds differently to McMurphy based on their personality. Cheswick, easily influenced, immediately takes to him, while Harding, who is naturally suspicious and guarded, never warms up to him. The nervous Billy is cautious but open, while the wild Taber does not seem to care about McMurphy's presence at all.
The well respected movie critic Roger Ebert gives Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful a positive and supportive review, despite its controversial depiction of the Holocaust and its supplemental comedy based and fable-like narrative. Ebert celebrates the humanistic aspects of the film, viewing the film’s intentions in a much more lighthearted fashion than some of the film’s critics.
Ebert provides insight into the controversy surrounding the film’s use of humor and the Holocaust by way of information from his first-hand conversation with Benigni at the Toronto Film Festival in which Benigni revealed to Ebert that he offended right wing Italians and left wing critics at Cannes. Ebert, however, approaches the film as the fictional fable it claims to be rather than a misrepresentation of the Holocaust, praising the film’s “sidestepping of politics in favor of simple human ingenuity.” He suggests that the film is “not about Nazis and Fascists but about the human spirit.”
In regards to comedy, Ebert rejects the notion that the film makes the Holocaust into comedy, instead suggesting that the film uses comedy as a symbol for paternal devotion. He believes that the elaborate game constructed by Guido, and his undying humor are his only weapons with which to protect his son.
Ebert applauds the very optimism that other critics such as Gerald Peary and David Denby of the New Yorker demean. He believes that the film speaks about hope, future, and the “human conviction.”