Sunday, February 10, 2008

"The Bucket List"-- Kickin' It!

Picture me trying to take my 91 year old dad and 81 year old mom to the movies. There's Dad with his cane, and mom with the macular degeneration. And Me. And for sure, there are very few movies that they care to see any more, as they don't like: 1) bad language; 2) nudity; 3) violence; 4) loud noises or even loud music.

As you will quickly deduce it becomes increasingly difficult to find adult movies that aren't 'too adult' in that other sense of the word, and yet are for adults. Rob Reiner's recent effort however is one such movie, and it is well worth it. In fact, it left me wanting more than the less than two hours it dished up. And you have to admit--- watching Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson together, arguably two of the greatest actors of their generation, doing a 'road' movie (remember Nicholson and Dennis Hopper in Nicholson's first road movie--'Easy Rider'), trading barbs and repartee, is alone worth the price of admission.

The premise of the movie is simple-- these two very different men, both end up in the same hospital room, and both are informed they have terminal cancer and up to a year to live. What to do? These two men could hardly be more different--one is a rake who ran over everyone and alienated even his own family in his climb to the top of the health care management industry (he owns the hospital he is staying in and has a rule-- 'I run hospitals, not health spas, two persons to a room, no exceptions'. Of course, when he ends up in his own joint, he wants, but is not given an exception). The other is a African American Baptist, who is quite literate, loves watching and answering all the questions on Jeopardy, and rather than being a teacher he has been a mechanic all his life as he married too early, had family too early-- you get the picture. He's been married to the same woman for many decades, where as Mr. Cole (aka Nicholson) has run through four wives and is now alone.

Now about the Bucket list-- its a list of things one would like to do in one's last year before kicking the bucket. And so, the 'odd couple' draws up a list after getting fortified by chemo, and hits the road to the Pyramids, Mt. Everest, the Taj Mahal, going sky diving, racing classic cars, you get the picture. But the surprise is that along the way there are quite interesting conversations about God and religion. When Freeman remarks that the stars and the moon are some of God's nicest handiwork, Nicholson scoffs. Perhaps the most humorous scene in the movie is when they talk about reincarnation having gone to India.

Nicholson says "What I could never wrap my mind around was this idea of reincarnation. I mean if you are a snail what have you got to do to come back as something better next time-- lay down a perfect trail of slime?' This is classic Reiner sort of stuff, even recalling the old Mary Tyler Moore sketches.

There are other laughs along the way, and some poignant moments as well, as each man tries to find the joy in their lives once more before the lights go out. One wants to go gentle into that goodnight, the other wants to rage against the dying of the light. Take your pick.

I will not spoil the ending, but I will tell you this--- both my parents, even with all their old age ailments, thoroughly enjoyed this movie, even though they are playing with the house's money now. They smiled and laughed, and I knew I had found something we could all enjoy almost as much as N.C. barbecue and basketball (well, not quite that much). This movie doesn't try to over-reach and be to profound, it just seeks out and finds a sweet spot. And in a world full of lousy, abrasive, in your face, crude, and rude film-making, this is a kinder, gentler film well worth your time and attention. Enjoy, and find the joy in your life before its over.


Joe Arnett said...

Dr. Witherington,
I believe it was Peter Fonda in Easy Rider with Dennis Hopper, not Jack Nicholson. (You'll understand that some of us blog readers are nit-pickers!)

I am an avid reader of your blog. I have it bookmarked and look forward to checking and reading every day. May God continue to bless your blog and all your work.
Joe Arnett

Joe Arnett said...

Dr. Witherington,
I believe it was Peter Fonda with Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider, not Jack Nicholson. (I'm sure you have already learned that some of us blog reader are such nit-pickers!)

Let me add that I am an avid reader of your blog. I have it bookmarked and check everyday. Thanks for all your blogs. Keep it up. May God continue to bless all your work.
Joe Arnett

Ben Witherington said...

If you gentlemen will check you will discover that not only Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, but also a young Jack Nicholson is in that movie as well.


Dave said...

BW3 is correct.
As I recall Jack was a lawyer in the movie, and got killed when they were jumped in Lousiana.

By Dennis for Dennis said...

This movie really set a fire under my friend to start living his life with more passion. He's almost become wreckless hahaha. Either way i've heard nothing but great things about this movie.

Falantedios said...

My favorite Nicholson movies are the Chinatown movies and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

A friend of mine at blogged yesterday about "What Are You Waiting For?"

Themes like this one in The Bucket List are very important to us as Christians as well.


Ross said...

Hi Ben

I have just got back from the UK seeing my own parents. I am pleased to read that yours are well as well - long may it continue!