Ratched ~ the Netflix series ~ a review

“Ratched” is a dark, suspenseful psychological thriller inspired by “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” by Ken Kesey, a great novel from 1962.

I would love to see more movies like “Ratched”, where lesbian characters are played by real life lesbians. Women who have loved other women in their lives know better how to express each token of affection, every meaningful smile, each significant touch, every funny tease, a.s.o.

The age gap lesbian romance between Mildred and Gwendolyn is unique in film history.

” In the novel, Ratched is often identified by her Orwellian nickname, “Big Nurse,” and she’s described as physically imposing and almost supernaturally frightening. Her nails, according to the novel’s unstable narrator, are “funny orange, like the tip of a soldering iron. Color so hot or so cold if she touches you with it you can’t tell which.” She runs the ward with an iron fist, and favors lobotomies as a means of keeping disruptive patients under control.” – http://www.elle.com

“Nurse Ratched’s character was based on a real person—a nurse whom Kesey once met while working the night shift in a psychiatric facility in Oregon. But, as he later admitted, he greatly exaggerated the woman’s cruelty in his story for theatrical effect, twisting her into a symbol of autocratic control and blithe barbarism, who takes quiet pleasure in torturing her patients through a combination of medicinal control and psychological manipulation. ” – https://www.newyorker.com

“In the hands of writer and creator Evan Romansky, as well as director and executive producer Murphy, “Ratched” is a far cry from a faithful prequel to the landmark book and film it’s inspired by, but far more troublesome is how bad the series is on its own.” – http://www.indiewire.com

“In the hands of writer and creator Evan Romansky, as well as director and executive producer Murphy, “Ratched” is a far cry from a faithful prequel to the landmark book and film it’s inspired by, but far more troublesome is how bad the series is on its own.” – http://www.indiewire.com

“The drama series that tells the origin story of asylum nurse Mildred Ratched. In 1947, Mildred arrives in Northern California to seek employment at a leading psychiatric hospital where new and unsettling experiments have begun on the human mind. On a clandestine mission, Mildred presents herself as the perfect image of what a dedicated nurse should be, but the wheels are always turning and as she begins to infiltrate the mental health care system and those within it, Mildred’s stylish exterior belies a growing darkness that has long been smoldering within, revealing that true monsters are made, not born.” – https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/ratched

“When the show begins (after a brief, bloody cold-open murder spree that I will not spoil) we meet a pristinely dressed Mildred Ratched as she drives along the central California coast in a shiny blue coupe. A wide panoramic shot pulls back to reveal the grandeur of the ocean, waves crashing against the rocks. Paulson’s costumes, as an extension of this visual feast, are sumptuous and cinched; she seems to have an endless supply of fashionable jewel-toned wool garments with prim little fascinator hats to match.

Romansky and Murphy seem to have pulled much of the show’s soundtrack directly from Bernard Herrmann’s orchestral pieces for “Vertigo.” We know immediately, however, that Mildred Ratched is not the type of restrained, opaque woman who populated Hitchcock’s work. Her first lines are directed at a gas-station attendant, telling him he reeks and needs to bathe. She checks into a roadside motel alone—another self-conscious Hitchcock reference, this time to “Psycho”—and then continues on to her destination, a gleaming psychiatric facility run by Dr. Richard Hanover (Jon Jon Briones), a lobotomy enthusiast who is addicted to self-administered anesthesia, and his sidekick Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis), the long-suffering head nurse with a hangdog appearance and an air of superiority. Nurse Ratched asks Dr. Hanover for employment, and, when denied, devises a devious plot to finagle her way into a job. By the end of the pilot, having secured her position, she descends to the basement to visit the hospital’s newest inmate, a psychopath named Edmund Tolleson, who brutally murdered four priests. We learn that this is the “brother” whom Nurse Ratched grew up with, and that she has hatched a plan to help him break free.

It takes all eight episodes for Ratched’s sibling heist to come to fruition, but by that time the plot has become so convoluted that it barely matters. There are story lines involving dunking patients in boiling water as a form of gay conversion therapy, patients committing suicide, a woman with flamboyant multiple personalities, hotel-room surgeries with blunt instruments, acts of sexual deviancy between a convicted murderer and a libidinous nurse-in-training. A smooth hitman (Corey Stoll) who has come to town to hunt down and kill Dr. Hanover occupies a motel room near Mildred’s and they begin a sordid affair complete with naughty, Tennessee Williams-esque roleplay. California’s governor (Vincent D’Onofrio, looking like a late-career Orson Welles) takes a special interest in Dr. Hanover’s facility as part of his new campaign, and his personal secretary (Cynthia Nixon) takes a special interest in Nurse Ratched. The two slurp down oysters and visit hidden “lady bars” in the woods. This clandestine sapphic affair, the most touching part of “Ratched,” seems to want to channel the suppressed yearning that Todd Haynes brought to the portrayal of mid-century queer romance in “Carol,” but it lacks the subtextual elegance that made Haynes’s film crackle.” – http://www.newyorker.com

“The series seems more interested in reframing Ratched as a repressed lesbian who struggles with accepting her sexuality. Unfortunately, the series also struggles with her sexuality as it rather clumsily introduces her interest in women through an unconvincing and all-too-convenient relationship with Gwendolyn Briggs, the top aide to California’s boorish governor (played by Vincent D’Onofrio). The pinnacle of Ratched’s blindness to her own emotions arrives during a scene that’s far too blunt for viewers, who are also still trying to understand if she’s actually anti-gay or hiding something about herself.

Gwendolyn, who thinks they’re on a date because they are, by all accounts, orders oysters, and then proceeds to teach the seafood newcomer how to eat one. To say this is done with innuendos doesn’t do the “SNL”-esque exaggeration justice. While absolutely entertaining it’s also completely disconnecting — you lose all touch with what else is going on, as you stare in an awkward stupor at this stretched out sketch. It’s not… bad, but it is definitely… a lot.

“Ratched,” however, tips that balance in the wrong direction when dropping one of its many nauseating backstories. Turns out Sharon Stone’s character, an uber-rich single mother named Lenore Osgood, is out for revenge against the hospital chief, Dr. Hanover. A few years back a cocky Hanover arrived at Osgood’s luxurious estate to try to help her son, Henry (“13 Reasons Why’s” Brandon Flynn), who had a bad habit of “pricking” people. (Quick cutaways show him walking up behind the waitstaff and stabbing them.)

Without getting into the how and why too much, let’s just say Dr. Hanover’s LSD treatment goes horribly awry, and Henry — not kidding — saws off his own arms with a chainsaw. Due to the ensuing sepsis he also loses both legs. So his mother wants the bad doctor dead and it’s hard to blame her (even if her son is a total shit).

To that same end, Mildred Ratched’s backstory is so incredibly nasty that it fails to do the one job it’s there for: set up her villainous turn. What’s even more perplexing is the method “Ratched” chooses to explain her origins.

In the sixth episode, Mildred acknowledges enough of her personal interests to go on a date with Gwendolyn and, reminded of her love for childlike entertainment by a random TV program, the Governor’s aide and hospital nurse take in a not-at-all romantic… puppet show. In said puppet show, Mildred immediately starts hearing another story than the one the rest of the crowd hears. To her, the puppets are reenacting her childhood, where she and her “brother” are actually two unrelated orphans who bond over their shared abuse in multiple households.

RATCHED (L to R) SARAH PAULSON as MILDRED RATCHED, CYNTHIA NIXON as GWENDOLYN BRIGGS and JUDY DAVIS as NURSE BETSY BUCKET in episode 108 of RATCHED Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2020

In the sixth episode, Mildred acknowledges enough of her personal interests to go on a date with Gwendolyn and, reminded of her love for childlike entertainment by a random TV program, the Governor’s aide and hospital nurse take in a not-at-all romantic… puppet show. In said puppet show, Mildred immediately starts hearing another story than the one the rest of the crowd hears. To her, the puppets are reenacting her childhood, where she and her “brother” are actually two unrelated orphans who bond over their shared abuse in multiple households.

Puppet dads swat puppet daughters, puppet moms threaten puppet sons, and then real actors do the same thing. But regular old child abuse isn’t enough. No, Mildred and Edmund are eventually adopted by a couple who make them abuse each other, on stage, in front of paying pedophile customers.

This is impossible to fathom; such long-term and highly public sexual, physical, and mental abuse is such an extreme act that, without a doctorate, there’s no telling how it would affect these kids as adults. That’s probably why Romansky and Murphy use it; not only is it deeply disgusting and thus a fresh horror for fans to chew on, it’s a catch-all to explain any odd behavior required of Mildred and Edmund by the plot. But why it had to be enacted in both puppet and human form, well, that’s a question for the ages.

In case all of this wasn’t enough, “Ratched” also introduces a new character with multiple personality disorder. Charlotte (Sophie Okonedo) is completely inessential to the plot — she literally lifts right out by the end — and her sudden pivots between characters are designed to shock you into paying attention; well, that and the murders. The murders are rather shocking, too. But her whole deal feels outdated, overly showy, and, and again, too disconnected from the plot. Her motivation doesn’t even change when she changes characters; as Dr. Hanover, who she murders for no real reason, Charlotte says she wants to kill Edmund for killing another one of her friends (who she only knew as a different personality)… and then Charlotte, still as Dr. Hanover, teams up with him.

If that sounds complicated, don’t worry: It doesn’t actually make sense in the show either. But that doesn’t stop Edmund and Charlotte from hitting the road together, and they remain at large when the season ends. Mildred and Gwendolyn are in Mexico, the brother and sister vow to kill each other over the phone, and that’s it. That’s “Ratched.” It’s an absolute mess, and if it seems like I ran out of gas describing it here in this last section then you are 100 percent correct. Trying to stitch all these threads to together is an exercise in futility. But hey, at least the actual stitching — the clothes! — are great. And Sharon Stone. And her monkey.” – http://www.indiewire.com

“Ratched represents the way society treats those with mental illness.

Ratched is ranked as one of the all-time great movie villains.” – http://www.elle.com

Mildred Ratched is masterfully played by Sarah Paulson.

“Sarah Paulson’s younger version of Mildred Ratched is certainly an antiheroine—if not an outright villain—she’s a far more nuanced character than in either the page or screen versions of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”

“Angel of mercy. Master manipulator. Meet Nurse Mildred Ratched: a monster in the making. ” – http://www.netflix.com

I absolutely enjoyed the peach scene:

Also, there are so many beautiful lines:

“I Believe There Are Some Things That Are Worse To Feel Than Simply Feeling Nothing.”

“I Might Be That Kind Of Person. The Kind Of Woman…Who Enjoys The Company Of Other Women.”

“Governor, In Some Cases, The Way To Show Strength Is Actually To Show Mercy.”

“And When The Time Comes, We’ll Be Sitting On A Balcony… A Hacienda On The Beach, Margaritas In Hand. And I Could Just Slip Away, While The Sun Sets Over The Ocean”

“We had a saying in the Core, “Save one life, and you’re a hero. Save 100 lives, well then, you’re a nurse””.

 

Sources:

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/ratched

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/on-television/ratched-reviewed-a-confused-caricaturish-origin-story-for-the-cuckoos-nest-villainess

https://www.elle.com/culture/movies-tv/a34061117/nurse-mildred-ratched-facts/

https://screenrant.com/ratched-best-quotes-season-one/

https://www.indiewire.com

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