Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Bucket List

One of the first things my 18 year old son noticed as we entered the theater was he was one of the youngest ones there. Later, as the theater filled up, he was one of several less than 20 years of age. In front of me were an 85-year-old-lady and her family. I would overhear them say it was the first time she had been to a movie in years. Of course a movie featuring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman dealing with terminal illness in the later stages of life was something that would appeal to an older crowd. The direction provided by Rob Reiner and a wonderful script provided by Justin Zackham would provide a story of excellence for any age.

From the outset it was obvious this project was close to the hearts of Director Reiner and actors Freeman, and Nicholson. The production, shooting locations, music, editing and so forth brings the complete package. There is not an ounce of wasted film. Not only are we treated with these wonderful components but a script that knows exactly how to blend comedy with the pairing of Nicholson and Freeman, two of our most brilliant actors but it also knows how to bring out the drama as we see these two face death. While a serious subject matter, Reiner comes through with his best direction since the early 1990’s. We see a story we think we know the answers to from the opening narration. The twist at the end brings us back to reality and forces us to think even more about the story we have just seen.

The Bucket List starts of with two individuals facing the reality of death. Mechanic Carter Chambers played by Morgan Freeman, and Billionaire Edward Cole, played by Jack Nicholson end up sharing a hospital room. Here Reiner brings these two contrasting characters together and shows the audience that not only are there the obvious differences, such as race, social economic status, and more, but there are also similarities. While each character may not recognize the similarities at first, they build a bond and friendship that moves them to the point of trying to achieve a few of their life dreams and desires before they kick the bucket, thus the creation of the bucket list. What transpires is not only heart inspiring, but laugh out loud funny, featuring some of the best lines ever and a tear jerking conclusion that will require a Kleenex or two.

Along the journey we see a deeply spiritual man, Carter Chambers who is loyal to his wife of over 40 years. He is unapologetic about his faith, and recognizes his life will not end with his death. He shares those attributes, hopes and dreams with his new found friend Edward Cole. Unfortunately, Cole is a man of science, not of faith. He is also a man who has lost a great deal of purpose. As these two live life to the fullest, they learn to love each other, and Cole sees a sermon of living, life, and faith lived out before him.

The Bucket List is in many ways a sermon, a sermon not just for Cole, but for each of us observing this wonderful portrayal of friendship and love. The sermon starts as we see a man who loves and gives to his children be consistent in his faith and willingness to share that love with others. While we see his faith and practice in various areas, we also see the struggle of Cole. Cole while he is praying to Jesus is so caught up in his own lack of belief that he refuses to recognize his own prayers, even to the point where he states he is talking to himself.

As we see Cole struggle we see Chambers find various ways to share his faith. From various discussions about faith, Heaven, love, and hope we see Chambers unapologetic about his faith. We even see scenes where his family is praying. Unlike many religious Christians, Chambers knows when to turn off the speech, and turn on the actions. He has learned through life how to let his life be the messenger of his faith. Chambers understands the importance of letting his light shine, and let it shine he does.

Luke 11: (33) No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a clay pot. A lamp is put on a lampstand, so that everyone who comes into the house can see the light. (34) Your eyes are the lamp for your body. When your eyes are good, you have all the light you need. But when your eyes are bad, everything is dark. (35) So be sure that your light isn't darkness. (36) If you have light, and nothing is dark, then light will be everywhere, as when a lamp shines brightly on you.

Chambers also understands the concept of joy, while in a Buddhist Monastery Chambers shares with Cole of the importance of joy. It is in being joyful, and living a life where others find joy through your life that we can ultimately find Heaven. Cole has trouble with this, while he has found happiness, he recognizes his life has seldom, if ever given joy to others. It is here the movie takes a twist. It isn’t just the things in life that should be important to us but the people we could have and should have loved, the relationships we may have lost, or the family we may have ignored. This concept was a message in itself. A message that shows people our faith and our lives are really what matters most. We see this ultimately in Cole as he crosses off the list the item of kissing the most beautiful woman he has ever met.

There are many other lessons and sermons preached in The Bucket List. One of those is the concept of how one finds God. While Chambers is sharing this, Cole is hesitant to receive it or understand it. We see Cole struggle to the point where he ultimately understands. This particular scene could have come directly from the Bible itself.

1 Kings 19: 11-13 (11) “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. (12) And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. (13) When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

The truth is I loved this movie. It is one I will see again, and one I will purchase when the DVD comes out. While funny, it is also serious and moving. While entertaining, it is also deeply spiritual and thought provoking. It preaches a sermon, but not just any sermon, but one that will resonate. I was never bored, and left the theater deeply entertained. I don’t know what more I could have gotten from the experience.

On a scale of 1 – 10 for the number of items on my bucket list, a resounding and grateful 10

The following is the video Say by John Mayer from The Bucket List. Click on the video below, if the video don't work, click on the link:

The following is the trailer from the movie The Bucket List. Just click on the video, if the video don't work, click on the following link:

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