'Bucket List' shows actors as themselves

First things first: As a film, "The Bucket List" is an annual not a perennial &

mere eye wash. Its attraction is that the audience gets to spend almost two hours watching Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in roles they know best: themselves. Their screen character, Edward Cole (Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (Freeman), are incidental.

Nicholson and Freeman find themselves sharing a hospital room, both having been diagnosed with cancer. Each is told that time is short; perhaps a year, no more. Of course, Jack is irascible, a bit mad-looking, and a billionaire who happens to own the hospital. Freeman is the wise man, an intellectual who, because of life's circumstances, has spent 45 years under the hood of a car working as a mechanic.

Initially, they don't like each other. But then, under the circumstances, trying to absorb what for each of them is a devastating prognosis, their grouchiness is understandable. Out of their initial rancorous exchanges comes a bucket list, written by Freeman and found by Nicholson crumpled up on the floor. He smooths it out, reads it, and invites Freeman to take the list seriously. After some resistance, Freeman agrees. In fact, they both add to it.

At this point, they take leave of their beds (both, after chemotherapy, are in remission) and hit the road. Money is no object.

So begins a travelogue to include the Himalayas, the Taj Mahal, Southern France, Hong Kong, Africa, the Pyramids, and not to forget tattoos, racing vintage muscle cars and skydiving.

Much of the film, from this point on, is inane and predictable and requires a suspension of disbelief. First, they both seem surprisingly healthy. And then there's the question as to whether Freeman would really choose to spend the final months of his life with Nicholson and not with his wife of more than 40 years. Seems a bit of a stretch.

But the film does beg a question or two: What would any of us do if told we had one year to live? Would we instantly make a bucket list and then set out to cross off the items? And do people, in the daily course of their lives, make bucket lists, meaning a list of those things you want to do or accomplish before you exit the stage?

Sitting at an Ashland coffee house, Dave Colwell, 64, looked up from his newspaper and said to have a serious bucket list you need serious money.

"If I had such a thing, I'd head out immediately for some ultimate skiing in the French Alps at Vald'Isere." That would head his bucket list. Did he have, at this point in his life, a running bucket list? \

"No," he said simply.

Dee Anne Everson, 50, sipping tea at a small table with Taylor Kohn, 56, when asked if she had a bucket list, shook her head and insisted it was a "guy thing." Women, she insisted, didn't have or make such lists.

Kohn agreed, though she did acknowledge that she has been nurturing the idea of "buying a VW Eurovan and traveling around the country filming older folks as they shared their stories." All she needed was some gear and, of course, a tricked out VW bus.

Everson listened politely, but still held to the viewpoint that women were different from men when it came to carting around a list in a bucket. Which sent the conversation off on a tangent of what kind of bucket was in play, here. Galvanized? Wooden? Designer? Wicker? When it was suggested that the bucket was a reference to kicking the bucket, which was a reference to an obscure metaphor of some kind, the origins of which are unknown, Everson shrugged and said, "Yeah, well, it's still a guy thing."

Two women got up from a nearby table and Everson asked them if they had a bucket list. One woman looked confused and the other said absolutely not. She was "living in the moment."

And when David Sherman, 50, stopped by to say hello to Kohn, he joined the conversation.

"Absolutely," he answered.

Everson nodded sagely.

"Put me on a Greek island," Sherman expounded. "Permanently. To live. That's my bucket list. I'll be there. My kids can come visit me."

He did acknowledge that as of right now he had two small children, a job, and his current bucket list was the one written by his wife and he was working on it.

Perhaps having a bucket list is not only gender related but age related. Cole Hafner, 22, student at SOU and lifeguard at the YMCA, said he has never had a bucket list.

"Everyone supposedly has one of these lists. Well, I'm not one of those people. I feel so busy with life right now &

college, work, girlfriend &

that I don't have time to think about those things." When asked what he might put on a list if pressed, he said, "SCUBA diving in all four oceans; win the lottery; get a sky diving certification; and travel the world with some good friends."

Perhaps the appeal of "The Bucket List" is that it taps into that abiding sense many have that while life is being lived, it doesn't reflect those silently held desires and goals that would comprise a serious bucket list. There is always the grudging sense that life demands compromise, Freeman's mechanic a prime example. But then, of course, there's time. Endless, stretching time, which is the currency of youth. However, when it feels there is less than more time perhaps that's when the bucket list might come into play.

So, as a film, "The Bucket List" is an easy going afternoon's entertainment. The filmmakers, however, miss an opportunity to delve into the real issues which are just beneath the patina of visiting Hong Kong or the South of France: that would be sitting down and sharing that list, not with a stranger but with family and those who have stood near for a lifetime.

But then that would have been a different movie.

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