Jack Nicholson is my least favorite actor. He reminds me of my ex-husband. This prejudice has kept me from watching most of his movies. According to the filmography at IMDb, Nicholson has acted in 71 movies. I've seen five of them.
In the case of The Bucket List, the draw of Morgan Freeman, who is one of my favorites, trumped my dislike of Nicholson so I decided to watch it.
Nicholson plays Edwin Cole, a Scrooge-like character like the one in As Good as it Gets (1997). Cole is a misanthrope, hateful in word and deed until just before his redemption at the end of the story. He has made a fabulous fortune buying and running hospitals. When he is diagnosed with cancer, he is hospitalized in one of his own facilities. Against his wishes he is forced to follow his own rules and share a double-occupancy room.
Cole's roommate is Carter Chambers (Freeman), a well-read automobile mechanic who loves to watch Jeopardy and who is a fountain of fascinating facts. His ambition of being a history professor took a backseat to family responsibilities, but his own children completed college; a son is a lawyer and a daughter a concert violinist.
Cole and Chambers are at opposite poles as human beings.
Cole is as wealthy and pampered as a senator or a corporation CEO. He's self-centered, angry, bitter, mean-spirited, foul-mouthed, and sexually promiscuous. Lacking in spiritual and intellectual resources, his chief source of pleasure seems to be that of putting people down, especially his personal assistant Thomas (Sean Hayes). Although much-married, he lacks family connections. His only child wants nothing to do with him. She has never forgiven him for interfering in her marriage.
Chambers is a working man whose life centers on family. He's been married to the same woman since his first (and only) year in college and has never been unfaithful. He draws solace from his religious convictions, and amuses himself with the store of knowledge he has gained from his reading.
The lives of the two men intersect when both are diagnosed with cancer. The doctor (Rob Morrow) predicts a remaining life expectancy of from six months to a year for each of them.
Chambers reacts introspectively. He recalls a suggestion made by one of his college professors, that of making a "bucket list," a list of things to do before "kicking the bucket." He jots down a few items, but then crumples the paper and it ends up on the floor where Cole finds it and reads it. Cole adds several daring and expensive things to do and persuades Chambers to go on the road with him. Chambers, who has withdrawn emotionally from his wife (Beverly Todd), agrees.
The Bucket List is not a movie that deserved any awards. For example, the IMDb site lists an extraordinary number of continuity errors. But the film has a universal appeal. Most of us have felt the emotional turmoil of losing a loved one to cancer. Many of us are at the far end of life and have begun to wonder how much time we have left.
Although its subject is the end of life, The Bucket List is entertaining. I read a reiew by a Chrisitan critic who faults the Chambers character for leaving his wife for a luxurious world tour. I see nothing reprehensible in his wanting to escape, if only for a little while, the stricken faces of family and the torture of "fighting cancer."
Here's the "bucket list" from the movie:
1. Witness something truly majestic
2. Help a complete stranger for a common good
3. Laugh till I cry
4. Drive a Shelby Mustang
5. Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world
6. Get a tattoo
8. Visit Stonehenge
9. Spend a week at the Louvre
10. See Rome
11. Dinner at La Cherie d'Or
12. See the Pyramids
13. Get back in touch (replacing "Hunt the big cat")
14. Visit Taj Mahal
15. Hong Kong
16. Victoria Falls
18. Ride the Great Wall of China
What's on your bucket list?