What Would You Do With Only a Few Months to Live?
Death. This is something most people do not regularly like to think about due to its negative connotation. However, if you are told by a doctor you only have a few months to live, I bet the word “death” would be something you spend a great amount of time now thinking about. When given this news, us as humans typically tend to do one of two things, we either break down and sulk for the rest of our time, or get out and do the things we have always wanted to do. Now, you may wonder why I start an intro with such a heavy topic? Well, in the 2007 movie Bucket List, directed by Rob Reiner, Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) and Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) are both diagnosed with cancer and are only given a few months to live. The film begins with the two patients finding out they are terminally-ill with cancer. When blue-collar, working mechanic Carter hears the devastating news, he is at the car repair shop. However, when his soon-to-be hospital roommate, billionaire hospital manager Edward finds out the news he is ironically in a courtroom fighting to lower costs of supplies being used in his own hospitals. By a near chance of fate, the men are assigned to the same hospital room. Due to the fact that Carter and Edward have lived two polar opposite lives, the first few days in the hospital room they butt heads, whether that be arguing over the television channel, or Edward complaining about contracting a disease from Carter’s wife who visits often. Before long, however, the two become friends (which is probably a good thing because we both know living with someone you dislike can be a living hell). One day, while Carter is going through treatment, fighting like hell to survive, he starts to write a “bucket list” of things he wants to do before he dies. After remembering he has less than a year to live, he wads up the list and throws it on the ground in frustration. The next day, Edward finds the list and encourages Carter to complete everything on this list. As long as he is allowed to tag along with Carter, Edward offers to finance the entire trip (it sure must be nice being a billionaire). This is an offer Carter clearly cannot turn down. From there the two men break out of the hospital and embark on a spectacular adventure around the globe. The pair complete lots off the list such as race car driving, skydiving, climbing the Pyramids, and going on a lion safari in Africa. As they continue to become close, they begin discussing personal matters in their lives. Edwards tells Carter that he has not been in contact with his daughter in years. In return, Carter explains to Edward that he is ashamed for he has been falling out of love with his wife for quite some time now. Edward, as he has been divorced four times, does not understand why Carter has stayed with his wife for so long after feeling this way. Maybe that’s why while they were in Hong Kong, Edward hires a prostitute for Carter, only trying to cheer him up. This only pisses Carter off and makes him realize that he needs to return home to his wife, Virginia (Beverly Todd), immediately and spend his remaining time alive with her by his side. Before returning home, Carter has to get back at Edward so he has the chauffeur bring them to Edward’s daughter’s house. Of course, this only pisses off Edward and the two end their trip on a bad note. The men go their separate ways until one day Edward gets a call saying Carter has collapsed, the cancer has spread to his brain. It is only a matter of days before he passes away. At the funeral, Edward delivers a heart touching eulogy explaining the brotherhood the two formed in such little time. Edward confesses that the last three months of Carter’s life were the best three months of his (Edward’s). The passing of Carter finally makes Edward realize he needs to go visit his daughter, and so he does. We are able to see the pure joy on Edward’s face as he reunites with his daughter, even getting to meet his granddaughter. Although both men end up dying, the conclusion of the film is truly heartwarming as we are able to see both men had lived their best life in the time they had left.
Both Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson were a perfect fit for this film. Freeman easily played the role of Carter, a conserved, working class man who did not want to cause any harm to anyone. Whereas Nicholson easily sold the role of Edward, a wild, billionaire bachelor with very few cares in the world. In this friendship, Carter tended to act as the more logical one, as Morgan Freeman is known to generally play this role, such as in Bruce Almighty when he plays God. As the two men embark on their vacation, the audience is easily able to see the brotherhood bond form between the two actors.
While watching The Bucket List, I was reminded of two other films that have a similar theme of inspiration. These films are, Pursuit of Happyness (2006) starring Will Smith, and Patch Adams (1998) starring Robin Williams. In Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a broke, single father who only wants to provide the best for his son. In order to do so he has to overcome many obstacles along the way, such as living in homeless shelters, walking by foot to try and sell bone-density scanners, and making sure his son is still well and healthy. Due to his drive and desire to make the most of what he has, towards the end of the film Chris is finally able to land a job as a broker. Chris and his son no longer have to struggle to survive. Another example of making the most of what you have can be witnessed through the character Patch Adams (Robin Williams). Although previously struggling with depression in a mental hospital, Patch makes it his goal to become a doctor to help as many people as he can to overcome their illnesses. After some time in training, Patch leaves the Virginia Medical University because he disagrees with their perspective on patient care. Instead of giving up on his dreams of becoming a doctor, he is determined to continue helping people. With the help of a wealthy friend, he starts his own medical clinic. There are many people who come after Patch, trying to shut down his clinic, but due to his determination he is able to prove them wrong and continue with his practice. Both Chris and Patch, along with Carter and Edward, make the most of the struggles they face. Whether that be overcoming mental illness, fighting for a job, or only having a few months to live, all of these men have one thing in common; they never stop fighting and maintain a positive outlook on life. It would have been easy for any of them to give up at any given time, start to feel sorry for themselves, however they did not. The inspiration portrayed in each of the actors is exactly what make these movies so successful. People like to see movies that make them feel inspired.
Although I am a sucker for most “feel-good” movies, I particularly enjoyed Bucket List because it reminded me of my grandma. Fortunately, she does not have cancer, but has had many high-risk surgeries that have lead her to live her life to the fullest, similar to Edward and Carter. For as long as I can remember, whenever I see my grandma she always has a smile on her face. Before her most recent open heart surgery (that’s right she has had quite a few actually), as our entire family was waiting nervously with her, she began to crack jokes to lighten up the mood. Most people would have been extremely scared or worried going into such a serious surgery, not grandma! Whether she is at a Wisconsin Badger football game cheering on her grandson, riding in the Mustang, scrolling through facebook, or scuba-diving through her virtual reality headset, it is evident she is simply enjoying the time she has left. I hope to be as energetic and full of life as she is someday.
Whether that be through Edward, Carter, or my beloved grandmother, I believe we all need reminders to live our lives to the fullest. If you’re seeking some inspiration in your life, or simply want to feel good, (because who doesn’t, right?) I highly recommend watching Bucket List.