Weeks after I started my book list and movie list, I neglected them. I was trying to update both, realized how many books I’ve bought and movies I’ve seen that I hadn’t added to the lists. Too many, in fact, that I can’t recall all of them right now.
There are two films, however, that have made such an impression on me that I remember their titles, the actors that appeared in them, the stories and even specific scenes. The first is The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman; the second is Rumor Has It, starring Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Shirley MacClaine and Mark Ruffalo. Both are available on DVDs; you can catch Rumor Has It on HBO.
The Bucket List begins with a man walking on snow and a voice over narration. The scene might not make a lot of sense at that point but hang on until the very end. The film ends with the same scene and that’s when you will almost want to weep with that mixed feeling of triumph and tragedy.
Edward Cole (Nicholson) and Carter Chambers (Freeman) are terminal cancer patients with six months to live. They meet when they become roommates in the cancer ward. Cole is a multi-millionaire; Chambers is an auto mechanic with an amazing mind for trivia. The first 20 minutes of the film are rather boring, depressing even, but try to survive them without falling asleep and you’re on to a great cinematic experience.
The bucket list is a writing exercise from Chamber’s college days. It contains a list of things that one wants to do before one dies. In a fit of depression after being told that the experimental treatments failed, he throws it on the floor and falls asleep. Cole picks it up and the adventure begins. They agree to draw up a common list and do all sorts of things. After checking out of the hospital, with Cole footing all the bills, they go sky-diving, car racing, they travel the world, gaze at the Egyptian pyramids, live in an Italian villa and go on to visit the Himalayas. Their intention of climbing the highest peak is thwarted by the weather that will only clear after they are both dead.
I won’t go farther than that except to warn you that the links contain some spoilers. It’s a beautiful film. It makes you think about your own mortality, your significance as a human being to all those whose lives you’ve touched, your insignificance as just one among billions of drops in the bucket of life. I don’t think I need to praise Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman; they always deliver fantastic performances anyway.
I saw Rumor Has It on TV. It’s been shown several times before but I never bothered not being a fan of Jennifer Aniston nor Kevin Costner. I’ve written about it before, the only time I appreciated Kevin Costner as an actor was after seeing Mr. Brooks when I figured he had finally learned to do roles that had no need for him to keep on insisting that he is the shining example of the combination of heroism and virility.
Jennifer Aniston… I don’t dislike her just because Brad Pitt was in love with her once upon a time. I just think that she’s overrated — in looks, in sex appeal and even in her acting prowess. She’s not someone I’d consider a great artist. A competent performer, perhaps, but that’s it.
But there was one night when there was nothing to watch and Rumor Has It was on. I wasn’t planning on watching the entire movie. In fact, I had seen the first 15 minutes or so a few days earlier and I switched channels. I got as far as that scene in the airplane restroom when Aniston and Ruffalo were trying to have sex, I didn’t find it funny and that was that. But that fateful night, I got past that scene.
Sarah (Aniston) and Jeff, just engaged, are on their way to attend the wedding of Sarah’s younger sister. Sarah is plagued by self-doubts, insecurities and her capacity to make any long-term commitment. She even thinks she may have been adopted considering how different she is from the rest of her family. In a pre-wedding dinner, she corners her grandmother (MacClaine) and hears rumors about how her mother had run away to Mexico before she married her father. Later, she visits an aunt who shows her a yearbook and a photo of the boy her mother was with in Mexico. Rumor has it that the story of the film The Graduate isn’t fiction but based on the life of the boy in the photo, Beau Burroughs, and her mother was part of the story. After the wedding, Sarah goes to San Francisco to find Beau Burroughs (Costner) to discover if he is her father.
Rumor Has It is a comedy and no one’s expected to take the story line seriously. But the twists and turns are unexpected, fun, disturbing at times and makes you wonder how anyone who has a great life can be so discontented with her lot. It’s a journey towards self-discovery, a story about human frailties and becoming an adult long after reaching the age of majority.
And Shirley MacClaine as a real-life Mrs. Robinson is simply hilarious. I can watch this movie and still laugh despite knowing exactly what will happen next.
Today’s (probably useless) links
- Found this while researching Scarlett Johansson’s filmography — covers of Vanity Fair’s annual Hollywood issue from 1995 to 2008 photographed by Annie Leibovitz.
- African supermodel Katoucha, a vocal advocate against genital mutilation, was found dead in the Seine.
- A feature story on the making of The Graduate with a link to a slideshow of photos from the movie set.