Bucket List (2007)
Rated: PG-13 for language, including a sexual reference.
Length: 97 minutes
Budget: $45 million
Box Office: $193 million ($93 US, $81Intl, $20 DVD)
Written by: Justin Zackham, whose previous work shall remain nameless.
Directed by: Rob Reiner, whose other movies include A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, and the cult classic Spinal Tap, which goes to eleven.
Starring: Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, with Sean Hayes and Beverly Todd.
When the materialistic owner of a whole chain of nursing homes is forced by his own policies to stay in a semi-private room, he develops a friendship with a man whose life has represented faith and family. Together they set out to really enjoy their last few months of life rather than simply dying in a hospital.
Entertainment Value: B+
Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman directed by Rob Reiner. How likely is this to be a miss? I don’t know whether it was my own proximity to these issues with my grandmother, but it was also a fairly somber movie in spite of the comedy. You automatically love Chambers, but you learn to practice his redemptive love for Cole, who you also come to love.
Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol B+, Sexuality B, Violence A, Language C+, Illegality A
This is properly PG-13 for language, which is right at the PG-13 limit, but the movie is otherwise fairly clean. A woman leaves a room implying sex occurred, another woman is implied to be a call girl propositioning someone, and there are some scenes of mild sex discussion. Had they decided to tone down the language, this could easily have been PG.
Significant Content: A
This is essentially a movie about what is valuable in life and what is not. But it is also a movie about the redemption of teaching these things to someone who doesn’t have them. So it is about friendship, the value of family, the nature of love and patience, and even faith comes in for a pretty good mention. The opening sequence says it all. The measure of a man is really how many other men measure themselves by him. Finding joy in your life and bringing it to others are the primary things God cares about. Knowledge is good, but real experience makes knowledge substantial.
Artistic/Thought Value: B
My general definition of good art in a movie is that it makes you want to think and talk about the issues the movie raises without the movie seeming to force you into the discussion. By that standard, this is quite good. On the other hand, some of the scenes were so obviously fake (I mean with bad green-screening, for instance) and other scenarios were so manifestly implausible that I have trouble giving it an A. But still pretty strong.
~What does it mean to live well? How would you describe and/or measure the goodness of someone’s life?
~What if Cole hadn’t been wealthy? Would the failure to see all the beautiful sights have lessened the significance of Carter's life? Do you think that the things they did together really made their lives richer? If so, what does this say about the prospects for people without such means to have really outstanding lives? To what degree does money (or the lack thereof) contribute to (or hinder) the good life?
~To what degree would you describe this movie as hedonistic? What messages does it contain about work, daily life, and retirement?
~What do you think of the test Cole gave Carter? In what ways was it a gift to Carter? In what ways are the tests God gives us good for us? Is temptation good because it allows us to confront our fears of our own moral deficiencies?
~Is this movie redemptive? Who is redeemed in it?
~In what ways is Carter like Jesus? Would you describe his behaviors as evangelical in any way?
~What do you think of Carter’s two questions about joy and helping others to have joy? How compatible is this with the Bible’s teaching about what God’s expectations for us?
~Have you ever made a bucket list? What sort of things are on it? What do you think of Carter’s assertion that young men and old men have different dreams? How important are dreams in your life?
~If you only had a short time to live, would you live differently? What does this imply about the way you’re living right now?
~Does Cole love his assistant, Thomas? How do you know? Why does Thomas stay with him? Do you know anyone who shows love in a way that seems like he’s being a prickly cactus?
~What implications does this movie have for nursing homes and end-of-life processes as they exist in the U.S.?
~Is it true that the measure of a man is how many other men measure themselves by him? What does the Bible say?
~What do you think of Carter’s decision to go with Cole and leave his wife and family for so long? Why didn’t he take her with him?
~How does belief in God shape our ability to appreciate beauty and cultivate a sense of wonder?
~What is the lesson to be learned from the story of Cole’s exotic coffee?
Overall Grade: B+
Solid, funny, sweet, and meaningful. Not bad for an hour and a half.