Hubs was up for a movie and I was ready to see something other than the four walls of the family room, so off we went to the local cineplex. Just our luck: The Bucket List was playing. Starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, how could this be a bad choice?
And it wasn't. Mr. Nicholson plays Edward Cole, a self-made multi-millionaire who, by his own admission, is better at work than at marriage. One of his specialties is taking over bankrupt community hospitals and turning them around--including eliminating private rooms. So when he needs to be admitted, he ends up sharing a room with one Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman). Carter is a mechanic who is a history buff. In fact, he wanted to become a history professor, except that his wife became pregnant and being young and black, he took the first good-paying job he could find and abandoned his dream. He's been married to the same woman for 45 years, has two sons and a daughter in college. And he's been through chemotherapy before. He's now on experimental treatment.
Edward wants a private room, but his assistant, Thomas (played very well by Sean Hayes), reminds him of his public pronouncements about the same. So Edward and Carter develop a friendship, born of proximity and their common struggle against cancer. Carter notices that Edward's only visitor is Thomas. Edward notices that Carter can't seem to ever find his doctor, and so tells his doctor (played by Rob Morrow) to take over Carter's care as well. The news for Carter is not good.
Carter has begun to write a list, called "The Bucket List," based on an exercise originally from his freshman philosophy professor. Once he receives his prognosis, he throws the list away. Edward retrieves it and convinces Carter that this is a great idea; they should do this together. Edward has money enough and isn't particularly anxious to have people hover around watching him die. Carter reluctantly agrees, although his wife is not at all supportive. (I wouldn't be either, if my husband went traveling around the globe and didn't take me!)
During their journey, secrets are shared. Carter confesses that once the children had left the house and it was just himself and his wife, he wondered if he still loved her. Edward confesses that he has a daughter, from whom he is estranged and eventually tells Carter how the estrangement came about. They discuss faith: Carter has it; Edward doesn't. On top of one of the pyramids in Egypt, Carter talks about the two questions the ancient Egyptians believed they would be asked after death: Did you have joy in your life? Did you bring joy to another?
In Hong Kong, Carter is faced with a choice and realizes what is important to him. And, eventually, so does Edward.
The ending is perfect.
Nicholson, of course, excels at playing the cantankerous old man. Sean Hayes, as Edward's assistant, is no mere milquetoast, however, and gives as good as he gets. Edward seems to appreciate that.
There is some mild language, an implied sexual encounter, and some frank talk about sex and bodily functions, so the PG-13 label is deserved. Both DD#2 and DS#2 saw it (DD#2 with us; DS#2 with friends) and while they probably didn't appreciate some of the "black" humor like Hubs and I did, they enjoyed the movie. Facing death is approached positively, and the message that we can control our attitude if not our circumstances is a positive one. As is the fact that Carter and his wife have been married for 45 years and she is the only woman he has ever "had."
On a personal note, Carter's youngest daughter was a "surprise," a reference which made me nudge DD#2 (our own personal "surprise") and made her smile. Also, one of the items on the list is "Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world" and I cried when Edward crossed that off the list.
Other funny moments: skydiving and driving the Mustang Shelby.
I only hope I meet someone with deep pockets when I'm ready to make up my own "Bucket List." :)
Seriously, this movie provides a way for families to discuss death and what they would like to accomplish in their lives. Especially for those of us with older parents, the movie makes a case for mending fences and for Not Waiting Until the Right Time. There is no Right Time. If you can, do it now. And this movie makes the point rather quietly and with humor, rather than pounding A Message over your head.
On the March Hare Scale: 4.5 out of 5 Golden Bookmarks. I'm classifying this as a "Pro-Life" film because it is--pro-life to the very end, rather than "I'm dying, so put me out of my misery." I think positive "End of Life" messages are as important these days as positive "Beginning of Life."