Posted: 01/12/2008


The Bucket List


by Laura Tucker

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“How do you measure a person’s life? … I believe that you measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you.”

Who would miss the chance to see The Bucket List, a movie featuring two of the greatest actors of our time facing their own mortality? Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman star in this film as two very different men that meet in a hospital and discover they only have one thing in common as they are both diagnosed with terminal cancer. Three’s no way an old sap like me, who came of age seeing Nicholson in Terms of Endearment, wouldn’t enjoy this.

Morgan Freeman stars as Carter, a man who has spent 45 years as an auto mechanic, only to not even enjoy the golden years he worked so long for, as his body is riddled with cancer and he undergoes experimental treatment, staying in and out of the hospital. Jack Nicholson stars as Edward, a man married to his job running hospitals, who only enjoys the finer things in life, such as Kopi Luwak, the most expensive coffee in the world. When he is sent to one of his own hospitals, sharing a room with Carter, he’s forced to eat his own words that he’s known well for, “I run hospitals, not health spas. Two beds to a room, no exceptions.”

Nicholson is at his acerbic bad boy best, okay acerbic bad older man, in this role. One of his best quotes of the movie was advising his assistant, Thomas, “Never pass up a bathroom, never waste a hard-on, and never trust a fart.” I don’t know if anyone could deliver that line as well as him. It almost seems written for him. Thomas is played by Sean Hayes, the straight man here, and very much out of his more familiar role of Jack on Will and Grace. Of course, his name in the film is actually Matthew, but Edward calls everyone by a name that isn’t their own, and he thinks Matthew “sounds too biblical.”

Freeman is his omnipotent distinguished older man best, proving to know everything, including every president’s name that starts with H and the “real” inventor of the radio. He’s one of those guys that can watch Jeopardy and get every answer right, and does so with every opportunity he gets. Neither Carter not Edward enjoy being roommates, but they seem to bond while watching each other suffering, going through their rounds of chemotherapy. What then bonds them forever is getting the test results on the same day that they don’t have long to live. As Edward says, “You live, you die, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.”

The two begin making up a “bucket list,” emulating an exercise Carter had done once before back when he was in college. His answers have of course changed in all these years, with things like “witness something majestic.” Edward’s takes control of the new list and insists Carter join him as they cross the items off the list together, traveling the world. Both men prove to have ulterior motives, looking out for what they think is best for the other.

The Bucket List proved to be everything I hoped it would be, with great acting from two legends, a great story that makes you think about your own mortality and that of the ones you love, and a wide span of emotions that has you laughing out loud one minute and wiping away tears the next. In the end, both men proved to have a true measure of their lives.

Laura Tucker is a freelance writer providing reviews of movies and television, among other things, at Viewpoints and Reality Shack.

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