Sunday, February 03, 2008

B.W. At The Movies: The Bucket List

The first sentence spoken in The Bucket List tells you that if you sat down for a buddy comedy about two geezers, you was robbed. This is a movie about facing death, and cancer, with whatever dignity and good humor you can muster. So it's not going to be quite the light-hearted romp you might have seen in the commercials.

That said, I found this an unexpectedly moving and entertaining film. It's two legendary (may I say beloved?) actors — 70-year-olds Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman — at the top of their games and confronting a story about their mortality.

Carter Chambers (Freeman) is a quiet, intelligent family man who has led a comfortable if uneventful middle-class life. Edward Cole (Nicholson) is a flamboyant millionaire (Chambers asks several times, "How much money do you have?") who has married four times and led a comfortable but unsatisfying rich man's life. They meet as patients in the cancer ward of one of Cole's hospitals (Oh yeah, he's one of those evil health-care profiteers, too), and each learns his time on Earth is finite.

They take a trip around the world on Cole's dime (hence Chambers' frequent inquiry) to check items off a mutual "bucket list," a list of things they want to see or do before they kick the bucket. The TV ads focused on an amusing scene early on, when they go skydiving. The TV ads, as often happens, don't do the film justice.

Maybe it's because I have so many friends who are confronting the realities of The Big C right now (it's only a handful, but more than one feels like many), but this movie struck a chord — several chords, really — in me. One was unexpected: Chambers is portrayed as a man of faith, whose confidence in that faith can be tested but not broken; not what I'm used to seeing on the screen. The film challenges the viewer — this viewer, anyway — to examine what's happened so far and reflect on what needs to be done before the inevitable arrives.

And the last sentence spoken in The Bucket List ought to coax a satisfying laugh out of freedom outlaws everywhere.

This may not be the best movie I've ever seen, but it's a very good one, and it gets filed away with the ones that struck me deeply and lingered long after the closing credits.

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