Overall, The Bucket List is a wonderful film, though it would fit pretty well in the tearjerker category, even more for men than women. You could say it’s a grim buddy picture.
Two acting titans share screen time and you’ll have to go a long way to find better performances by anyone anywhere at any time.
Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) are sharing the same room in a hospital operated by it’s CEO, millionaire Cole. Chambers is an auto mechanic who knows every answer on Jeopardy and wanted to be a history teacher until parenthood forced him to leave college. Both men are diagnosed with terminal cancer and given six months to a year to live.
The Bucket List has its moments of humor, but it is hardly a comedy. It does make you reflect on life’s journey as more important than its destination.
Cole’s assistant, brilliantly underplayed by Sean Hayes, comes in to tidy up the room and finds a list of things Chambers plans to do before he kicks the bucket. Chambers and Cole then decide that since they have to go, they’ll go out swinging. They plan to skydive, race cars, visit Paris, eat caviar and anything else they ever wanted to do in their lives.
Cole and his only daughter are estranged, as are Chambers and his wife, a nurse. Personal situations are resolved though you’ll find no Hollywood happy ending here.
Director Rob Reiner has two great stars for his many magnificent and moving close-ups. As Norma Desmond says in Sunset Boulevard, “We had faces.” You won’t find better faces than these two actors. Nicholson and Freeman are given brilliant philosophical monologues by WGA writer Justin Zackham. The beauty of their performances is that they say their dialogue as though they’re thinking aloud, off the cuff, like the lines were not written for them but came to them on the spot. Freeman especially shines when he “listens,” which he does better than almost anyone alive.
Anyone who wants to be an actor, writer, or director, should see this film. Bring a note pad with you … and a box of tissues.