“The Bucket List”: you don’t want your last months to get ugly


Name: “The Bucket List”
Director, writer:  Rob Reiner, Justin Zackhin
Released:  2007
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  DVD, Netflix
Length 99
Rating PG-13
Companies: Warner Brothers
Link: Facebook

As I get older, and notice more problems (like eye floaters) I realize (at 73) that my independence could come to an end suddenly.  So the idea of getting certain things done – like reaching certain places by car – seems important to me.  On my birthday, I actually started a trip to Grandfather Mountain and Brown Mountain, NC.

I finally broke down and rented the 2007 dramedy “The Bucket List” by Rob Reiner.  Jack Nicholson (“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest“) and Morgan Freeman (“Se7en” and plans for “Rendezvous with Rama”) play two terminally ill lung cancer patients (Edward and Carter) forced to room together in a hospital.  Edward has been a hospital CEO and breaks down in a meeting, coughing up blood, after defending his policy of no private rooms. (At the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, in the new tower finished in 2004, all rooms are private.)  Both have to deal with chemotherapy and the violent vomiting that ensues. (Remember Roman Polanski’s”Carnage“, 2011?) Then both go into remission. (Since this film is nine years old, hopefully side effects now are a lot more manageable.)

They have become friends, and Carter (to the chagrin of his wife) has handwritten his bucket list.  (I remember those handwritten notes on sheets of paper when I was hospitalized for a hip fracture in Minneapolis in 1998, and recovered from surgery).


The men have three months of feeling well, so they make an abbreviated tour of “Seven Wonders of the World” (the 1956 Lowell Thomas Cinerama film that I remember seeing as a boy at the Warner theater in downtown Washington).  In fact, when I and my cousin made film strips of drawings back in 1954, I think that was one of my cousin’s “films”.  (I wonder if they’re still in his attic.)  In “Bucket List”, they do make it to “The Great Wall” (an upcoming big Universal film with a casting controversy over diversity), the Pyramids, the North Pole, Everest, and do some skydiving, and road racing.

The film spends too much time in hospital rooms and the scenery that it offers is impressive- when it offers it.  Maybe that’s the point. End-of-life decline can be ugly to watch.  It’s interesting that Reiner chose to shoot the film in standard aspect.

The DVD has extras – the song “Say” by John Mayer, and a short (by screenwriter Justin Zackham) on what it is like for anyone to write out a “bucket list”.

(Published: Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, at 1:30 PM EDT)