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Three score and ten or more

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Movie Review, The Bucket List

Two posts in one week. I must be careful lest this become a habit.

Just before Christmas I reviewed a play that made a particular impact on me. Tonight, I must review a movie that almost overwhelmed me.

Jan and I decided that we wanted to see The Bucket List more or less because we both really like Morgan Freeman. I have never seen him in a movie role in which he was not convincing. The movie also stars Jack Nicholson, who is not in my list of favorite actors. I have been entertained by him in roles ranging from Cuckoo's Nest and As Good As It Gets to the Batman movies and The Shining. I have always been impressed with his competence, but have frequently felt that he was showing off, that the characterization was a sort of a mask that was put on for the show.

We went to see The Bucket List this evening just expecting to enjoy a good film. What we got was well beyond that. I do have to explain that this film is a coot or geezer movie. It is about age, and illness, and how those things affect two very different people in what begins to seem like two different ways. I will say that if one is a coot or a geezer he or she really must see this film, as should anyone who "owns" or "claims" a geezer as close family. It touches things that are not often voiced but that are often felt or shared (or which should be felt or shared)

It is simply the story of two guys, one a billionaire and the other an auto mechanic who become (we discover) terminal cancer patients sharing a room in a hospital that is owned by the billionaire. The reason why the billionaire is not in a private room is revealed in the exposition of the film. The "bucket list" is a list of things which someone would like to accomplish before death (if he/she could know when that date might be). Friend billionaire invites his roomie (all expenses paid) to go with him to do all the things on the mutually prepared list, and it deals with the changes in each of their lives, and those of their families that come about though this series of adventures.

That is SUCH a superficial description of the movie. To deal with the film as a film, it is a tour de force for two masterful actors turned loose with an amazing if somewhat obvious script. I am not sure how one nominates co-stars for the same best actor award in the Academy Awards, but if they are not both nominated, there is something drastically wrong with the nomination process. If it were possible, they should (at least on the basis of the other films I've seen this year) BOTH receive the award. They combined to create something right on the verge of majestic.

I will confess that, for me, it was almost a little too close to home. All the emotions were rekindled from that excruciating fourteen days when I sat beside my wife eighteen months ago, with her kept unconscious, and entubated, with an open incision in her chest that was just covered with surgical mesh, and when I was told that very few survive that surgery; this information was followed by the news that she had two strokes, a very nearly flat EEG and if she recovered she would very likely never be able to walk or communicate. As these two great characters worked through the information that neither of them could reasonably expect more that a few months to a year of life, I sat, wracked with sobs, with Janet's hand clutched in mine. When the only possible, but still somewhat wonderful ending came to the film, I could only sit, stunned, through the credits trying to work up the strength to stand up and leave the theatre.

The sad thing about what I have written so far is that it makes the film seem like some sort of melodramatic tear jerker, and it is not. It is an enormously funny film. It seems really weird to describe a film about the last few months of two cancer ridden old coots as funny, but it is, and not with gallows humor, but with real genuine humanity. It is a film that should be seen by everyone who is a coot or geezer, who is related to a coot or geezer, or who may one day be either/or a coot or geezer. It will make your life richer if you see this film.


At 4:39 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

You've convinced me! I'll put it on my save list with NetFlix, so that when it comes out I can watch it. We bought a large screen tv so that we didn't have to go to the theater to watch movies. I prefer watching them at home, and am willing to wait for them to be released on DVD.

At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Kathleen said...

I have put it on my calendar. Can't wait to see it. Your review is enough for me.

At 5:20 PM, Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

It's on my list too. I enjoy "melodramatic tear jerkers." They're like Italian opera. You cry over the tragedy, are purged of sorrow and then go home feeling happy.


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