The Red Right Hand

When He Closed His Eyes, His Heart Was Opened

Rob Reiner

Jack Nicholson
Morgan Freeman

What was advertised as a light, heart-warming comedy, I'm sorry to say, turned out to be a bit of a let down. It's not that The Bucket List is devoid of talent or impressionable moments but that they are far too abundant; so many things are crammed on-screen that they all seem fairly trivial. I'm getting a little ahead of myself, let's start with the plot; the story focuses on two terminally ill cancer patients: Carter [Freeman], a mechanic and millionaire hospital owner, Cole [Nicholson]. Sharing a room, the trials of chemotherapy bring them closer together and form a bond between the arrogant prince and the kind-spirited pauper. Told he has such little time to live, Carter compiles a list of things he wished he had done with his life, the titular Bucket List. Cole, reacting in the only way he knows how, throws money at the problem and offers to take Carter around the world for the mother of all send-offs. Interestingly enough, that recently happened here in the UK; a patient was informed he would die within a month and spent and sold every penny he had for the best going-away party ever. A week later the hospital wrote to him stating they made a mistake... and they were sorry.

This film is your basic, hollow, feel-good flick that throws a few 'meaning of life' thoughts in with a few visual wonders of the world. Apparently, scriptwriter Justin Zackham, wrote a finalised version of the screenplay in just under two weeks; unfortunately, it's plain to see. The characters are underdeveloped, especially those of the supporting cast, and the base elements of the story play off a little callous in the face of a truly horrifying experience for any individual and their family - which would explain why Roger Ebert gave this film the lowest score he could. The one thing really seeing the plot through, and certainly the main reason I haven't knocked this film considerably, is the two leads. Nicholson and Freeman offer truly beautiful performances (in places) and moments of quiet comedy (the kind where you think instead of laugh). That's not to say their performances makeup for what the film lacks, they simply offer a consolation prize.

Maybe I'm just far too young and cynical to truly appreciate films like this. I don't think I am, I have often been told I'm wise beyond my years and my aptitude for films is considerable but this film just hits me in the same way that the critically acclaimed The World’s Fastest Indian did. From a critic's point of view, I felt the film lacked a considerable amount of depth and substance. Perhaps that is what I'm missing, perhaps this story isn't about deep characters, arcs or the actual list compiled by the two leads; maybe this story is a parable designed to help us figure out our own lives, decisions and eventual mortality... either that or it's a sappy buddy comedy that says nothing to anybody that hasn't already been said a thousand times before. You decide.

Release Date:
15th February 2008

The Scene To Look Out For:
The opening twenty minutes of chemo-drama were fairly well done, namely on Jack Nicholson's part but I'm not entirely sure if it was acting or just struggling in and out of bed - he is looking quite porky of late. Other than that, the only thing I wish to highlight is the fact that the wonders of the world (Taj Mahal, Pyramids, etc) seemed a little CG and fake. I have it on good authority that everything was filmed on-site but I'm not convinced... not at all.


Notable Characters:
*The following paragraph contains a possible spoiler about the not so surprising surprise ending*
Let's focus on one of the supporting characters, shall we? Cole's PA, Thomas, is played by Sean Hayes (of Will & Grace fame). Midway through the film we discover his name is actually Matthew but Cole assigned him a new moniker because his name sounded 'too biblical'. The reason I have highlighted him is not for his performance, which was a little dull, but more for the fact that I cannot figure his character out. He stays on as his PA despite continual abuse and even respects his final wishes and climbs Mount bloody Everest... twice!

Highlighted Quote:
"I envy people who have faith; I just can't get my head around it"

In A Few Words:
"Shallow film about two terminally ill patients that feels little more than an un-funny version of My Name Is Earl"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon