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The Bucket List

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Someone's got a peculiar sense of humour ...

I gotta say, after seeing Rob Reiner diss religion in countless movies (either benignly, a la very brief moments in The Princess Bride and When Harry Met Sally..., or nastily, a la Misery and A Few Good Men), it was almost shocking to see him give the upper hand -- the moral and spiritual authority -- to the man of faith in this movie. Oh, sure, the question of "belief" is handled very vaguely, and the movie as a whole is not entirely free of stereotype -- the white guy is the skeptic while the black guy is the believer -- but I don't think Reiner has been able to concede even THAT much in his previous films. (I'm thinking particularly of Ghosts of Mississippi here, which was based on a true story but, if memory serves, purged all references to religion except for James Woods's racist rants and one line of Alec Baldwin's to the effect that churches are still segregated; I interviewed the real-life guy that Baldwin's character was based on, and he said there had been LOTS of prayer during the events depicted in that film, and he wished the film had included just one scene that acknowledged that.)

If there is any one Reiner film that this one reminded me of, it was The Story of Us, the one that starred Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer as a couple getting a divorce. There was a certain wan existential melancholy to that film -- a reference to people doing crossword puzzles because it brings a little order to their lives, a reference to how all the patterned order we see in the world is nothing but an illusion (the memorable "There is no ass" scene) -- and I'm beginning to wonder if Reiner was going through some sort of soul-searching at that point in his life which has since left him a little more open to religious matters. I mean, I'm not suggesting that he's become a "seeker" or anything, but at the very least, he seems less likely to shut off another person's point of view if that OTHER person happens to be grounded in some sort of religious community.

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Says Roger:

"The Bucket List" thinks dying of cancer is a laff riot followed by a dime-store epiphany. The sole redeeming merit of the film is the steady work by Morgan Freeman, who has appeared in more than one embarrassing movie, but never embarrassed himself. Maybe it's not Jack Nicholson's fault that his role cries out to be overplayed, but it's his fate, and ours.

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With an estimated $18.6 million opening weekend, The Bucket List looks set to break the record for Rob Reiner's best wide opening. Of course, given that the record -- the $15.5 million earned by A Few Good Men -- is 15 years old and there has been a lot of inflation and whatnot since then, breaking that record isn't such a big deal. But given that Reiner's last four films -- 2005's Rumour Has It..., 2003's Alex & Emma, 1999's The Story of Us and 1996's Ghosts of Mississippi -- all opened in the single digits, this may be something of a comeback for him. It looks certain to be his most lucrative film since 1995's The American President (cume: $60.1 million), and if it does a million or two more than THAT, then it will be the third-highest-grossing film of Reiner's career, behind 1989's When Harry Met Sally... (cume: $92.8 million) and A Few Good Men (cume: $141.3 million).

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Culture shock. After a couple of weeks of large and small film festivals, where I saw several films made with great artistry, I went to see this yesterday. I knew it wasn't going to be great, but it's the kind of thing that my mom likes to go see so we took her. It's not a bad film considering what it set out to be, but it is so mediocre in so many ways.

However, at least I didn't have to read subtitles.

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I liked it a lot. Unexpectedly it is a simple moral tale of the rich man whose love of money has cost him his family, contrasted with the poor man whose family cost him his dreams and he resents them. In the end

both are reconciled with the people in their lives in simple authentic ways. I especially like the feasting of the family and the "kissing of the most beautiful woman in the world."

Denny

Edited by Denny Wayman

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The narrator at the start of the film tells us about the

death of Edward Cole. Cole is the character played by Jack Nicholson. But this is rather odd because the narrator is Morgan Freeman, and Freeman's character, Carter Chambers, is the first to die. How then could he describe Cole's death? As a filmic device, this makes no actual sense. So are we to conclude that Carter was speaking from beyond the grave? From heaven?

Edited by The Invisible Man

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Invisible: Yeah, I think that's the warranted conclusion. Like

Kevin Spacey in "American Beauty."

Morgan Freeman has always played

voice-of-God type characters anyway, so this role puts him a little closer to the heavenly realm

.

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Good observation, Invisible.

I wonder if it is like the narrator on DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES? She is murdered but narrates the ongoing lives of the people there from a kind of "all-knowing" place, giving us the moral of each tale and describing the inward thoughts and feelings of the people.

Denny

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The Invisible Man wrote:

: The narrator at the start of the film tells us about the

death of Edward Cole. Cole is the character played by Jack Nicholson. But this is rather odd because the narrator is Morgan Freeman, and Freeman's character, Carter Chambers, is the first to die. How then could he describe Cole's death? As a filmic device, this makes no actual sense. So are we to conclude that Carter was speaking from beyond the grave? From heaven?

I don't know how LITERAL I would be about that. But it is certainly SUGGESTIVE of that, yeah. This is what I was getting at when I blurbed the film at my blog last month and wrote:

Two, this film just might mark the first time that director Rob Reiner has given up his anti-religious prejudice and, indeed, become a bit more open to matters of faith. . . .

But now,
The Bucket List
features Morgan Freeman as a man who believes in God, has faith in a life beyond this one, and quotes something his pastor once told him when it comes time to deliver the film's inspirational theme -- while Jack Nicholson plays the skeptic who openly says that he "envies" people like Freeman. I could say even more about the film's portrayal of the Freeman character, and how this portrayal relates to the character's beliefs, but it might mean giving something away; so for now, all I will say is that the film gives Freeman the voice-over, and thus invests his character, rather than Nicholson's, with the greater moral or spiritual authority. . . .

Incidentally, I liked the double-twist involved in the film's framing device: we

are initially inclined to think that the man walking up the mountain is Nicholson, and that he is going to die there

, but it turns out that

Nicholson has already died, and that is his employee taking his ashes up the mountain

.

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Not only that, but afterwards anyone unfortunate enough to be close to you gets to share the love.

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