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Death without Denial, Grief without Apology:
A Guide for Facing Death and Loss
by Barbara K. Roberts, Ann Jackson
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
. "The Bucket List"

This sentimental journey with an odd couple begins with a cute meet in a two-bed hospital room. First in is auto mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman). Following him is corporate billionaire Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) who owns the hospital. Both are asking, "who's that guy?".

Being a man well used to luxuries and all the privacy anyone would want, Cole has to be reminded by loyal assistant and chief enabler Thomas (Sean Hayes, "Will and Grace" TV) that the strict policy of the hospital is two-to-a-room, something he can't deny since he's just come from a board meeting in which he used that very fact to emphasize why his hospital is successful while others are struggling. Reluctantly, he accepts the concept of sharing and warms to Chambers.

As far as Chambers is concerned, the elitist attitude he's witnessing from the other side of the room is just part of the norm for rich old white guys. But, as circumstances has thrown them together without a prior consultation, he's willing to engage in conversation.

The level of engagement rises some few notches when both get surgery and tests and the prognosis by Doc Hollins (Rob Morrow) that each of them has only months-to-a-year to live. Chambers starts scribbling something on a yellow legal pad. Cole wants to see it. Chambers refuses. But, later, when he gives up on it and throws it away, Cole grabs it and sees the list. Chambers shrugs it off as just a list... of things to do while still alive -- The Bucket List!

The idea takes root and Cole proposes that they add a few items and do it all, with him footing the bill. Before you know it they are traveling the world in Cole's corporate jet. The departure from home is nothing for Cole, who has no family, no wife, no kids. Or, at least anyone he's speaking to. But Chambers wife Virginia (Beverly Todd, "Crash") raises a stink about it and presses the point that her husband has no business depriving her of his company in his last few months of life. Point taken. Hard to deny.

In the course of time and travel, the two men open to each other and Chambers learns that his new pal Cole actually does have a family -- in a daughter who hasn't spoken to him in decades. This story element adds another wrinkle of meaning to the lavish journey.

In fact, this film offering is more about two acting legends playing off against each other than it's about the premise of the piece itself. Which is not to say that they don't turn this look at impending death into a comedy of bitter-sweet proportions, with much light humor along the way.

The greater your capacity for the sentimentality factor, the quicker it will cling to your heartstrings. For the less inclined, it's an interesting primer on your values and options when you're facing your own mortality. Either way, the audience for this codger* journey is big.

*[The word "codger" derives from "coffin dodger."]

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  


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