Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Bucket List

"The Bucket List" (Rob Reiner, 2007) Movies about cancer patients don't do well at the box-office, by and large, but this one seemed to linger in theaters for quite a while. The reason could be the chemistry of the two stars, Nicholson and Freeman, who wanted to work together, and, here, fit as a team like comedy and tragedy. Nicholson lays it on a little thick to compensate for the considerable Freeman gravitas, but in moments of quiet they're evenly matched.

This one was savaged by the critics for its
kumbaya—live-'til-ya-die saccharine quality, but armed with that fore-knowledge leavens the sugar-shock. Two cancer patients—one, ironically, the head of the no-frills hospital system he's being treated at—pull each other through their treatments and surgeries, with definite expiration dates and decide to fulfill a hastily cobbled together "bucket list" of things to do before they die. It includes the "Grumpy Old Men" comedy fodder of sky-diving and race-car driving, but also it doesn't shirk from the ravages of cancer treatment or the mood-swings accompanying the Kubler-Ross stages of death. And it's tough on the effects of a family when the figurehead, dying of cancer, decides he needs some quality time to eat, drink, be merry and see a handful of the seven wonders in a selfish act of squeezing as much experience into an ever-shrinking amount of time.

If there is anything that holds the movie back (besides its commitment to be a feel-good movie) it is
Rob Reiner's direction, which never rises above the perfunctory. It's something that's plagued all his films, but is most noticeable when he tries to do something bigger than a two-hander romantic comedy—it's why his "The Princess Bride" never quite rises in presentation to meet its ingenious material. Reiner perpetually films like he was aiming for television movies (but even now, TV directors are getting better at using wide screen compositions for HD). True, he had to worry about his actors looking convincing over stock footage (predominately used during the travel sequences), but there must have been a way to do it with more panache and sense of style. "No frills" makes for a dispriting experience...in hospitals and movies.

1 comment:

Mike Lippert said...

I really hate this movie in the special way you hate movies made by rellay talented people. What has happened to Rob Reiner. He was once one of Hollywood's most varied and reliable directors? Not only is this movie silly melodrama and slapstick but it also looks really cheap.