Living to the Fullest
Dance the tango with Antonio Banderas. Sing a duet with Debbie Reynolds. Have lunch with Johnny Depp. After watching The Bucket List, Iíve decided to jot down the things Iíd like to do before kicking the bucket, and those three wishes immediately came to mind. However, I realize it will be more difficult for me to satisfy my desires than it was for the two main characters in this touching dramedy. Played brilliantly by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, our heroes are terminally ill patients who use the immense resources available to one of them as they attempt to do all the activities on their bucket lists, including traveling to exotic places and skydiving.
Itís a simple plot, but the veteran stars work their acting magic and make the film more entertaining than I expected. Because of its theme, The Bucket List couldíve been a downer. Happily, under Rob Reinerís caring direction plus the lively performances by Freeman and Nicholson, this movie ends up being inspirational and upbeat instead.
More odd couple than best buddies when they first meet each other in a hospital room, Carter Chambers (Freeman) and Edward Cole (Nicholson) share one thing in common: time on their hands to consider the past and how they want to spend their limited future. Carter, whoís spent the past 46 years as an auto mechanic, feels a sense of loss over dreams he wasnít able to make come true because of family responsibilities. In contrast, Edward, a corporate billionaire, was always too busy making money to concern himself much with family or friends.
Because of their different personality types, Carter and Edward are like fire and ice. Cool and dignified on the surface, Carter can still get the best of the demanding, hot-tempered Edward when he puts his mind to it. As the two get to know each other, feelings of admiration and respect grow between them -- and they begin to learn things about themselves as a result of their sometimes ruthless give-and-take interactions. Itís Carter, once a philosophy student, who brings up the ďbucket listĒ idea (from his freshman college course), but itís mega-wealthy Edward who makes their bravura escapades possible. So what if doctors and everyone else advise against it? These two guys decide to embark on the greatest adventure of their lives. And viewers are treated not only to beautiful scenes from all over the globe at landmarks like the Taj Mahal but also to exciting skydiving and car-racing sequences -- generally with some humor thrown in for good measure.
Because Oscar-winners Freeman and Nicholson co-star here, itís no surprise the performances stand out as the movieís most important element. Nicholson has the flashier role, the type heís done so well many times before. But in this movie, his character goes through significant changes, and Nicholson makes us believe them all -- even the most sensitive moments. Freeman plays the more difficult part, one requiring considerable subtlety in many scenes. Dignified to the max, he must also give Carter a bit of a frivolous side as well as let his anger bubble up to the surface when called for. Needless to say, Freeman is more than up to the task. In fact, heís on my short list for the Best Actor of 2007 Award as result of this marvelous, finely nuanced work.
The Bucket List does more than entertain us. Itís a dramatic reminder of the important things in life. And now, dear reader, I must get back to my own bucket list. Happy Holidays!
(Released by Warner Bros. and rated ďPG-13Ē for language, including a sexual reference.)