Netflix’s Ratched review: Sarah Paulson 'delivers delicious fun' as iconic villainby Lewis Knight, https://www.mirror.co.uk/authors/lewis-knight/
Producer Ryan Murphy reunites with his American Horror Story muse Sarah Paulson for an odyssey into the mind of one of cinema’s greatest villains, Nurse Ratched.
Inspired by the novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and the 1975 film of the same that won Louise Fletcher an Oscar, Ratched dishes out the origin story of its eponymous anti-heroine.
Set in the aftermath of the Second World War, the enigmatic but manipulative Mildred Ratched arrives at Lucia State Hospital intent on working there as a nurse.
Arriving at the same time is notorious serial killer named Edmund Tolleson (Finn Wittrock), whose case becomes the chief concern of the highly-strung hospital administrator Dr. Richard Hanover (Jon Jon Briones), and the self-serving Californian Governor ( Vincent D’Onofrio ) and his loyal press secretary, Gwendolyn Briggs ( Cynthia Nixon ).
As Mildred blends further into the local community, she attracts the attentions of Lucia’s busybody head nurse, Nurse Bucket (Judy Davis), and her own mysterious neighbour ( Corey Stoll ), who has ties to an eccentric face from Dr. Hanover’s past ( Sharon Stone ).
As this cast of quirky characters intertwine and collide, events turn increasingly bloody, bizarre, and deliciously twisted.
Of the performers, Paulson delivers the type of campy, heartbreaking, and likable turns she has become known for as Mildred Ratched, turning her into a complicated figure worthy of empathy and even someone to root for.
In the supporting cast, the standouts have to be Briones as the increasingly unhinged and desperate Dr. Hanover, Nixon as the repressed and unhappy Gwendolyn who shares terrific chemistry with Paulson, and - of course - Sharon Stone is a true scene-stealer as the fabulously ruthless Lenore Osgood, who isn't a constant presence but her scenes and arc’s conclusion are pure gold.
One person who has to be pointed out is the eclectic performance from Sophie Okonedo as a patient with multiple personalities who provides heartbreaking and unsettling viewing.
In terms of the series’ tone and look, it is a darkly comic, over-the-top, colourful but disturbing tale that riffs on the style of the thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock, even utilising the scores of Bernard Hermann to truly set the mood.
The period detail and costumes are gorgeous, if not occasionally flat - akin to Murphy’s Hollywood series - but it is certainly a feast for the eyes. Glowing green and red lighting illuminating some characters at moments of violence and desire also serve to make the series a fascinating stylistic tribute to the cinema of yesteryear.
Unlike many of Murphy’s series, Ratched avoids some of his biggest structural failings. While some plotlines feel rather rushed or take some bizarre turns, it never feels like elements are entirely brushed aside or not dealt with nor are there abrupt changes in focus that make the overall show a mess.
With themes of abuse, identity crises, family, and queer loneliness, Ratched deals with some territory well-worn in the Murphyverse but does it with a wink and a smile.
Ratched is the first true success for Ryan Murphy on Netflix with a deliciously twisted, well-performed, and gorgeously colourful take on one of cinema’s greatest villains.
Ratched is released on Netflix on September 18, 2020.
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