I’ve taken 33 airline flights so far this year. More than 2 per week Imagine running through airports every 3 days. I live in airliners.
My peeve list is long —
— The asinine US Homeland Security
— The kilometric linear Bangkok airport terminal sans people movers (with bathrooms at extreme ends of the 800 meter long terminal)
— Airline captains who wake me up with useless drivel, as if anyone in the airplane cared whether we were at 31,000 or 35,000 feet. Imagine the jet lag and cardiac strain on the third leg of a four-city business trip across 2 continents. And when I finally fall asleep, he wakes me up to tell me how high we are.
But the worst has nothing to do with aviation. Once in a while you see some of the most beautiful movies in the world, and there is no one to share it with. You watch one like The Bucket List, which makes you laugh until you cry, and in the end you turn on your side to hide your eyes from your seatmate.
It’s the old story about impending death. Two men share a hospital room. One an acerbic, sardonic billionaire, the other a mild-mannered auto mechanic. Both very intelligent. They take turns heaving their guts out into their toilet, writhing in agony from chemo, and playing gin rummy.
Then they are told within hours of each other that the cancer is non-survivable. Terminal. Six to twelve months.
Two doomed souls stare at each other for a few seconds.
“You want to play cards?”
“I thought you would never ask.”
They collaborate on a Bucket List. Things to do before they die. A trite blend of plot and character, for sure. But the writer exceeded my expectations with dialogue. He had me from the first line.
Then add two masters like Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson into the plot. Imagine what a good director can do with that. Well, how about Rob Reiner (The American President, When Harry Met Sally, Stand By Me)?
Watch for the scene with Jack Nicholson horizontal in bed, the camera looking right up his chin and nostrils. His infamous facial expression totally out of sight. But you can see his eyes, because he is wearing magnified periscope glasses to watch the baseball game on TV without lifting his head.
That’s when the doctor tells him he has six months left. The mirrored eyes are the only tools Nicholson has to work with. Watch how he might win an Oscar for that scene alone, with just his eyes.
Watch also his wrap rage as he tries to open a TV dinner.
And Sean Hayes‘ expression after Nicholson tells him, “Nobody cares what you think.”
So what’s on the Bucket List? Freeman starts with
- Witness something truly majestic
- Help a complete stranger for the good
- Drive a Mustang Shelby
Boring. So Nicholson adds
- Get a tattoo
- Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world
I filled the KLM Business Class cabin with peals of laughter. These were good lines!
“I wish I’d met you before we died.”
In Nepal, they talk about reincarnation.
“The Buddhists believe you keep comin’ back, moving up or down based on how you lived your life.”
“See, that’s where they lose me. I mean, what would a snail have to do to move up in the lineup? Lay down a perfect trail of slime?”
Nicholson’s face had a field day with that line, just daring you, the viewer, to confirm he is slime.
Then Nicholson and Freeman sit on top a pyramid in Egypt, looking at the other pyramids against a spectacular sunset. After a poignant moment talking about heaven, Nicholson brings them down to earth with,
“How do we get down from this tomb?”
After the death-defying skydive, where Nicholson pulls his tandem instructor out the airplane, “We lived to die another day!”
In the course of the short friendship, they push each other to add their deepest desires to the list. Even to resolve deeply suppressed conflicts that they never had the courage for before.
They didn’t get to cross off Freeman’s top wish. To see Mount Everest. A storm covers the mountain.
“Well, when do they do they expect the weather to clear?”
“Uh, next spring, sometime.”
For all the inevitability of the ending, it’s a bucket of surprises, which I won’t spoil. You will be misty-eyed when you learn how one of them crosses off “Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world”.
“I couldn’t remember what it felt like when I could not walk down the street without holding her hand. We’d lost something along the way.”
And then you might will lose it when he crosses off “Help a stranger for the good.”
This is a good one. See it. Do NOT wait for next spring.
For heavens sake bring a loved one. Don’t watch it alone.
And will someone tell the damn airline captain to shut up? Life’s too short for drivel.
Posted from Manila, May 10, 2008.
Stills from movies.com