Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman co-star in a wry comic adventure about life and death directed by Rob Reiner. Alan Silverman has a look at The Bucket List.
Carter is a middle class auto mechanic; Edward is the multi-millionaire owner of a chain of hospitals. Reluctant roommates in one of those hospitals, the two men from very different lives discover they share the same future when they are diagnosed with terminal cancer.
As the treatments and tests wear on, a friendship develops; and then one day Edward discovers a crumpled piece of paper near Carter's bed.
Edward's vast wealth gives them the opportunity to live out their dreams and check off as many items as they can from their personal "Bucket Lists." On this ultimate 'road trip,' each man finds he can face impending death with a new appreciation for what he has truly valued in his life.
Morgan Freeman says it is natural to ask the actors if playing these roles made them think about their own mortality; but he also is mindful that it is acting and playing a role.
"I think what you are doing always in any acting situation is acting," he says. "You are not trying to live the character. If you are I think you are going to get into deep trouble. Playing a character who is dying or going to die ...you just do it. I don't have any sense of my own mortality. I reject any thoughts of my own mortality. What is to think about there? I like the premise of the movie. It isn't about that. It's about living."
Freeman adds that it reminds him of a line from his 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption: that we choose to get busy dying or get busy living. Co-star Jack Nicholson says, like all of his acting, some personal experience found its way into the character.
"Everybody considers their own mortality all the time whether they know it or not: that fear of the unknown," says Nicholson. "These are interior, private conversations that we have with ourselves and we haven't really seen them on film before. We haven't seen them on the nose. We all, I'm sure, have been to a funeral and said 'well, how do I want my ...whatever you want to call it ...dealt with?' Nobody is that different, so I went by the assumption that these are things that people have thought about. If you touch that chord, this is what you get."
Director Rob Reiner is reluctant to suggest that The Bucket List is for older audiences; but he admits that it's a film he might not have chosen to make earlier in his career:
"Here I am now 60-years-old and you do think about your mortality," Reiner notes. "You do start thinking about have you led a meaningful life? Have you done the things in your life that you should be doing? What are your relationships with your family and friends like? All those things do come into play and I don't think I would have done a movie like this 20 years ago.
"Twenty years ago I made Stand By Me and that is about two friends on a journey with death as the underlying theme and how they help each other through a tough time in life," he recalls. "Here we are at the end of life (with) two characters that become friends, on a journey, facing death and helping each other work through the issues they need to work through before they pass away. So they are very complementary in that way and also in tone. There is humor and emotion in both and they both hit that same kind of tone. It is something that I've thought about and this is, in a weird way, a companion piece (to Stand By Me) at the other end."
The Bucket List also features Sean Hayes as the millionaire's remarkably patient personal assistant. Beverly Todd plays the mechanic's wife who struggles to understand why he makes his final journey with a stranger. The screenplay is by Justin Zackham and the road trip takes the pair to locations from the Himalayas to the Taj Mahal and the Great Pyramid.