Who Are These Guys?

Okay, let’s talk about the movie first and then let’s talk about our own personal Bucket Lists. For sure, no matter what our ages are; we all should have dreams.

The Story Line.

The movie opens when Carter (Morgan Freeman), a Master mechanic, receives a phone call from his doctor while he’s at work, informing him that he has cancer. Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) gets his cancer warning unexpectedly when he coughs up blood in a business meeting. He’s rushed to the hospital he just bought (no kidding). When he demands a private room, his assistant reminds him that he’s said very publicly many times before: “I run hospitals, not health spas. Two beds to a room; no exceptions.” So, Edward has a roommate: Carter.

We learn that Cole is a brilliant, billionaire businessman. But, he doesn’t intimidate his roommate. Carter has a mind like a steel trap. He’s a PhD. in disguise. (You’ll see what I mean if you watch the movie.) The two men start a conversation.

Through their talk Edward learns that Carter has raised three children: a tax attorney, an engineer and a symphony violinist. Think of it: all that education on a car mechanic’s salary; talk about a high value.

Carter asks, “Do you have children?” Edward says, “I never stayed married long enough.” Carter replies, “Don’t worry, I’ve been married long enough for the both of us.” Edward: “How’s that goin’?” Carter, straight-faced, “It’s goin.” Cole says, “I’ve been married four times ‘cause I love being married; only problem is, I love being single, too. Hard to do both at the same time. Only successful marriage I’ve had is with my work; started making money when I was sixteen.”

Carter says, “I always wanted to be a history professor and I made it through two semesters of City College before Virginia, my wife, gave me the news; I was young, black, broke, baby on the way; I took the first decent job that came along. I always meant to go back but 45 years goes by pretty fast.” (Yes, it does.)

This conversation is the start of their friendship together. They play cards, they talk; they get to know each other. And, a defining moment: Edward happens upon a list that Carter made originally in his freshman college class 45 years earlier: a Bucket List.

Edward, of course, thinks Carter’s list is too tame; Edward is a world-traveled risk-taker. He thinks the list needs more excitement. And, definitely, Edward thinks they should “do” the list NOW; “It beats sitting around waiting to die,” says Edward.

So, Edward convinces Carter to go on the trip with him. Carter’s wife protests vigorously. But, Carter says he thinks he’s earned some time for himself and so off he and Edward go. Carter, who tells this story, says, “And so it began.”

They skydive, drive racing cars, and travel in Edward’s private aircraft to eat caviar in France. They visit Cairo, drive through packs of wild animals in Africa, see the pyramids, motorcycle on the Great Wall of China, travel part way to the top of “Carter’s mountain” (can’t reach the top; there’s a storm) and finally end up in Hong Kong where they expect to buy silk suits and eat Black Walnut ice cream. But unexpectedly, Carter asks to go home. And, so they do.

Once there, Carter has a short time with his family. But, too soon he collapses and goes to the hospital where he waits to be operated on: without much hope. Carter dies on an operating table. He’s dead at 66 but thankfully, not before he had a last joke on Edward. (It’s about the coffee that Edward loves, but you really have to see the movie and share the laughs). By the time Carter died, they’d almost completed their shared Bucket List but not quite.

A Deeper Look.

This is a love affair between the two men. But, maybe I see it that way because my feelings were so caught up with the deep friendship. No, not a sexual love affair. But, the kind where two complete strangers bond quickly and become deeply attached to each other. These two became brothers in a very short time.

Some article I read called the movie a “buddy flick.” But, I think that diminishes not only the movie’s messages but the performances as well. I think she didn’t “get it.”

So, what were the messages? Actually, quite a few.

First, these two men are both the Superiority personality. Why do I say that? (1) They’re both experts in their work areas. (2) They both have heavy goals. (3)They are both intense and thorough thinkers. But, at the same time, they are very different because they have different values.

Carter is deeper. He’s spiritual; he questions the purpose of life. He’s a man who values relationships, who values commitments and has principles by which he lives. While he’s clearly impressed by Edward’s wealth and the mind that makes it possible, he remains steadfast in his own beliefs and values. For sure, so steadfast that he challenges Carter quite a few times on their journey together. Two of the questions Carter asks Edward along the way are: (1) Have you found joy in your life? And, (2) Have you given joy to others?

Edward, on the other hand, is harder, lives “on the surface,” doesn’t trust. He’s impatient with feelings, stinging with words and definitely not spiritual. He loves money, status, comfortable living BUT by the end of the movie, he also loves Carter. Edward speaks at Carter’s funeral saying, “The last three months of Carter’s life were the best three months of mine.” During those last few months Edwards opens up; he trusts Carter. Why not? The man is genuine to his core.

If you’re a person who looks for a deeper meaning in movies or books or life, I think you’ll really enjoy The Bucket List.

Warmest regards until next time,