The newly released Netflix Original, “Ratched,” follows Nurse Mildred Ratched as she becomes employed at one of the leading psychiatric hospitals in California. Her pleasant demeanor and apparent care for patients hides a much more complex and menacing interior. The show is based on the character of Mildred Ratched from the novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey as well as the 1975 film of the same name starring Jack Nicholson.
Unsurprisingly, the show’s telling of Nurse Ratched’s backstory falls short of the 5 time Academy Award winning film adaptation. Sarah Paulson’s portrayal of Nurse Ratched pales in comparison to Louise Fletcher’s portrayal, which won her the academy award for best actress in a leading role. Although, it may be unfair to compare the two roles as Paulson appears to be playing an almost entirely different character. The two nurses share only a name and a similar tone of voice. Paulson’s characterization is far more violent and unhinged, and she engages in an array of outlandish crimes that seem far fetched for the nurse found in the film. Outside of the leading role, the show overall does not seem to connect to the movie. It follows an evil nurse employed at a mental institution; however, few similarities exist outside of that.
“Ratched” relies on many heavily dramatized side stories, plot twists, and plot reveals that appear more for the sake of shock factor than for adding substance to the story line. Side stories begin and end frequently, and the reveals and plot twists are not well laid out for viewers. Furthermore, there are a few plot holes. Nurse Ratched finds herself with information that she should not know, and a particular body disappears without explanation. Character development is also lacking as character alliances and tastes for each other change on a moment’s notice with no real rationale. Long term enemies become friends over singular conversations and betrayals are erased with basic apologies.
The acting in “Ratched” appears ingenuine at first as much of the early dialogue sounds superficial and unoriginal. This does improve as the episodes progress, but the show’s flare for drama leaves remnants of the overly constructed dialogue sprinkled throughout the episodes. The show follows Nurse Ratched more so than the patients in the mental hospital leaving these characters to feel underdeveloped. Occasionally, chaos arises from the patients mirroring the movie; however, it is a poor imitation.
The surrealist tone of “Ratched” creates highly aesthetic scenes that utilize a striking array of colors. This style of filming could be successful on its own but when placed in conversation with the serious nature of the prior film, the choice appears to be in poor taste. Serious and mature events occur throughout the episodes, yet the overly dramatic music and style of filming creates a childlike quality that is difficult to overlook.
Viewers should note that the show is by no means horrible. “Ratched” is enjoyable as a theatrical drama if viewers abandon expectations set by the film adaptation. Ryan Murphy, one of the creators of “Ratched,” was also one of the creators of “American Horror Story.” Fans of “American Horror Story” will be pleased to find that “Ratched” is shot in a similar style and could easily be mistaken for a season of the show. Sarah Paulson, an actress from the franchise, succeeds in playing an unstable nurse, and Sophie Okonedo’s portrayal of Charlotte Wells, a patient at the hospital with dissociative identity disorder, is a shining point of the show. The costume design and set are also visually stunning. At no point does the storyline become slow or boring and plot twists are abundant regardless of how well planned they were.
Many viewers will be compelled to finish the season if they start episode 1 (as I was); however, final thoughts are likely to be that “Ratched” is just alright.
Check out Ratched on Netflix.