Seriously, you have Sarah Paulson, how do you mess this up?
In 1947, a man named Edmund Tolleson (Finn Witrock) murders four priests. He is arrested and committed to a hospital in Northern California. At the same time, Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson), a former army nurse, applies at the hospital and manages to manipulate events in order to get in the building. She quickly schemes to make herself invaluable to the institution and its head, Dr. Hanover (Jon Jon Briones), a promoter of progressive mental health care (for the 1940s), while avoiding the eye of Head Nurse Betsy Bucket (Judy Davis). It turns out that Ratched’s presence there at the same time as Tolleson might not be an accident, and that one monster may lead to another.
Okay, I’ll be frank, I hated this series. I had difficulty even finishing it, and I’m the guy who has sat through Killer Pinata and Clownado. However, I’m going to try to take the high road and start off with what it did right. First, it’s very stylistically appealing. It’s got a sort of gothic 40s vibe, much like some of the retro seasons of American Horror Story, and it does work well. The costuming is great, in particular Ratched’s outfits. The cinematography and sound design both compliment the visuals further. Second, the performances are great. Paulson, while I don’t believe her to be the same character that Louise Fletcher made great in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, delivers a powerful performance as a brilliant but broken woman. Finn Wittrock plays a menacing and psychotic killer, something he displays early on when he commits four brutal murders, but one who does have a kinder and more human side in certain situations. Judy Davis and Sharon Stone both deliver great supporting performances, but the standout supporting character is Cynthia Nixon as Gwendolyn Briggs, a political operative who builds a close relationship with Ratched.
However, there are three major things that bother me about this series. First, while the style is great, it’s almost completely indistinguishable from American Horror Story, which is ALSO a Ryan Murphy show. It robs the show of any potential uniqueness. Second, as I said earlier, nothing about this show seems to be related to the previous character of Nurse Ratched. Louise Fletcher’s portrayal is one of the greatest in film history, usually listed as one of the best villains ever. However, the strength of the character was that she never had to be outright threatening, because everyone always knew that she was in control. That control, though, always seemed somewhat necessary because of her position at the hospital, meaning that there was at least some justification for her actions. Until the end of the film, she has mostly been doing her job, and that’s the first time we realize just how far she’ll go when pushed. In this show, she starts off as a villainous schemer and just gets crazier. I can’t ever imagine this character becoming that one any more than Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker could become Mark Hamill’s. I’m hating this “origin story that isn’t” craze. Last, this show is pointlessly convoluted. The plot is not just insane at points, but offensively so. In American Horror Story: Asylum, the point of having a ridiculously convoluted story with changing rules was to make the audience feel crazy like the characters. In this, we’re supposed to be relating to Ratched, a character who wants to organize insanity, but instead just keeps making it worse.
Overall, just watch the movie and save yourself some time.
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